“Are you sure you want to stay?” Scott asked, trying his best to seem disinterested. Which is lot harder than you might think when your heart is in your throat, restricting your breathing.
“It is not a question of wanting.” Jaal sounder tired, as if this had been discussed before, and Scott shrank back against the wall.
“Oh” he said, “sorry.” The angaran male sighed deeply and turned to Scott.
“I am grateful that I have been allowed to journey and fight with you” he said, “but now my path has changed and I must stay here on Aya. my people ask it of me and i will serve them to the best of my ability.”
"Well" Scott muttered unhappily, "if you're sure." that was really the end of the conversation; Scott stood in silence and watched Jaal gather up his belongings and tidy up the tech bay, until there was as much as a trace of having ever been there. Scott watched with an increasing sense of helplessness, wishing there was something he could say to make the other male change his mind - but what could he say, exactly? Definitely not what he wanted to say. What he was aching to say. 'please, please don't go - don't do this, make them send someone else, don't leave me, please' , but if he said that he would also have to say the words that terrified him more than a whole battalion of kett - ' I'm in love with you '. Saying something like that to an angaran who was really just a gigantic pool of compassion wrapped in flesh and would most likely want to hug it out, was... well, probably not the brightest idea he'd ever had. especially not since he had manage to get close enough as a friend to be informed that Jaal had zero interest whatsoever in males. At least outside his species. And Scott had failed not crying himself to sleep over that enough times as it was, thank you very much.
Therefore he stood and watched in silence as Jaal packed his belongings, unaware that he was packing the remains of Scott's heart into his bag, too.
Once the angaran was done, the two males walked in silence through the ship to the docking area. they said nothing as the ramp ascended, and it was in the same silence Scott watched Jaal walk slowly down the ramp as if he was walking to an execution. Tears stung in his eyes, but his pride refused to let them fall. He had always known this stupid crush wasn't going anywhere anyways. He had been setting himself up for heartbreak from day one and now he was reaping what he had sown.
But knowing that, he realised as he told SAM to tell Koll to take them back to the nexus, did not make it hurt any less. However, a distraction just might.
Scott groaned, a low sound almost sounding like pain, as he parted his knees just a bit more to get better support on the hard, cold floor. Gil groaned hoarsely as his grip on Scott's hips hardened, making finger-shaped bruises appear on the pathfinder's pale skin.
"Fuck-" the engineer gasped, his voice wrecked. He shifted his hips just slightly and the speed of his thrusts increased, becoming a brutal battering of Scott's already sore body.
"Yes!" Scott keened, pushing back against the intruder, lost to everything but the feel of hot skin against his own, being taken and bred like a bitch, fucked into a stupor so his brain would finally shut up for a few moments. Every hard thrust sent a shockwave of pleasure through him, and it was all he could do to keep from face planting straight onto the floor as Gil's strong hand yanked his head back, blunt fingernails digging into his scalp.
"This what you want?" Gil growled as he thrust, burying himself as far in as he could go before pulling back out until just the tip of his cock stayed inside, the force making Scott's back arch as his entire body quivered every time Gil pushed in.
"Yes!" Scott howled in overstimulated pain/pleasure, not knowing what had been asked. He was so close, almost there.
"Harder" he half-sobbed, instantly rewarded by Gil pulling his hips back as he thrust in. That thrust, hard enough to punch all of the air from Scott's lungs, was exactly what he wanted. Scott keened, pressing back against his partner.
"Again!" he choked out. "God! Again!"
It was nearly enough to make his brain bliss out.
But not quite.
Scott sat as still as he possibly could in the uncomfortable chairs provided around the meeting table. Mainly because if he fidgeted even the slightest he was reminded of the fact that he’d spent most of the morning sitting on something else, so to speak. In short, he was sore, uncomfortable, and bored out of his head. By this point, Tann had been droning for the better part of ten minutes but making very little sense to anyone; something about peace and unity and shows of good will. A quick look around showed that both Kesh and Kandros were with him in at least two thirds of his predicament, which made it marginally better. If nothing else, he felt a bit better at seeing the frustrated twist of Kesh’s mouth. The krogan female was quickly becoming one of his all time favourite people, their firm friendship stemming from the fact that they both wanted to do the flamenco on Tann's head. Well, if Kesh knew what the flamenco was. Scott wasn't sure, and he liked his balls where they were too much to ask.
Scott sighed deeply and tried to find a more comfortable position without moving too much, wondering if anyone would mind if he broke his datapad over the salarians head. Acknowledging that it would probably get him thrown in chokey, he settled for glaring daggers at the infuriating bastard. If not for the fact that a lot of people depended on him keeping on Tann's good side, Scott would have happily given a whole year's wages to see him take a merry little stroll out the nearest airlock. If that bitch Addison went with him, Scott would even throw a farewell party or six. Well, he’d have Gil and Peebee throw the parties, but that counted.
“A peace bride is the perfect way of showing that we are as one…” Tann went on and Scott wondered if the salarian was aware that he had said the same thing four times so far. Kandros’ mandibles clicked with irritation as he made his second attempt to interrupt, and for the second time failed. The turian hated political meetings, and it was most likely only a matter of time before he lost his temper. Even Kesh had a better hold on herself in this sort of situations.
Finally it seemed as if the director was as tired of hearing his own voice as the rest of them, and he trailed off. In the silence, everyone tried their best not to look at each other. Scott’s eyes trailed over to the one empty seat, the one where the asari representative should be sitting, and wished they’d found the arc. But they were still searching, so the calming influence of an asari matriarch was not present at this trying time.
“So” Scott sighed, wanting to get the hell out and back to his ship, “do we have a volunteer, or is some poor girl going to be picked at random?”
“While this is too important to trust in a random female volunteering to be the representative of the Milky Way” Tann said in the usual emotionless way of all salarians except Koll, “a random choice is also not practical. The female needs to be one of high standing, well-connected and able to leave immediately without leaving too big a gap.”
Scott looked at the salarian with a sinking feeling inside. Surely he did not mean…
“Therefore the human Sarah Ryder has been offered to the angarans, and they have accepted her as wife to Jaal Ama Darav.”
Scott looked down at his datapad, knuckles turning white with the force of his grip. Stars, this was going to be an epic disaster. Especially for Sarah, who was still floating in and out of consciousness. His Sarah, whom he’d promised his mother he’d do anything in the world to protect. For the first time in his life, he found himself unable to do just that.
“You are aware” he said hopelessly, knowing there was nothing he could say to prevent this, “that Sarah is… special?”
“Are you finally going to tell us why we left the resident angaran at Aya and ran back to the nexus like a spooked rat?” Peebee asked as she leaned against the meeting table, the agitated tone in the asari’s voice in stark contrast to her relaxed stance.
Scott had called for an emergency meeting the moment he came back from the nexus, and she was done with his nervous twitching. He had been a complete wreck since jaal had insisted on remaining on Aya to make ‘suitable preparations’, a phrase that had made sense to exactly no one but Scott.
“That’d be nice. You’ve been acting weird for two weeks.” Drack rumbled sardonically. “Well, weirder than normal.” The ancient krogan leaned his rifle against the grand table, and Scott repressed a wince. Reminding himself to check it for cracks after the meeting, Scott drew a deep breath. He looked at his crew, all of whom were assembled before him, and wanted nothing more than to turn tail and run back to his quarters and get thoroughly drunk. But literally all of them were there, including his pilot, so… well, he wasn’t called “brave to the point of stupidity” for nothing. Besides, he was expected at ark hyperion's cryo deck in less than an hour.
“When I was at the Nexus” he began, and ignored Vetra’s muttered ‘which time, I can't keep track’. “I was in one of those god awful meetings with Tann and he told me a few things I’d rather not know about or do, but…” he made a helpless gesture and felt a bit better at the sympathetic looks. “We are supposed to collect a human female, escort her to Aya, and watch her marry an angaran.” he pinched the bridge of his nose and waited. The reactions did not take long.
“Wait, what?” Cora squeaked, shell-shocked.
“Is this true?” Lexi demanded, her skin darkening in indignation.
“Damn, poor girl!” Liam muttered, shaking his head.
“Yes” Scott sighed. “It gets worse. Sort of. The human female is my sister Sarah.”
“Who is she marrying?” Lexi asked, even more agitated.
“Who the hell cares?” gentle Suvi exploded to everyone’s surprise, “does she have any say in it?”
“No” Scott said grimly. “And neither do I. I tried. You know what Tann’s like. And she’s marrying Jaal.” He ignored the twin looks of sympathy he was getting from Liam and Lexi, knowing they'd corner him later for sympathetic shoulders and beers.
“So that’s why he insisted on staying behind” Koll murmured, “to be present on his future wife’s bridal voyage might be considered highly inappropriate amongst his people.”
“Yeah, pretty much” Scott said, sighing. “But that’s not all of it. Sarah… Sarah is different.”
“So she’s a special snowflake” Gil said, rolling his eyes. “You’re her brother, you’re supposed to think so.” Scott glared back at his… what was he? Friend with benefits? Fuck buddy?
“Yes, Sarah is a special snowflake as you so eloquently put it.” He snarled, “In fact, she has autism. ”
“Auta-what now?” Peebee’s face was like a giant question mark, and most of the other non-humans looked just as confused. Well, not Lexi, but then Scott didn’t think she was capable of confusion.
“How severe is it?” The doctor asked instead, “is she communicative at all?”
“She’s high-functioning, so yeah.” Scott sighed deeply, wanting nothing more than to get really drunk. Maybe have sex with Gil. Preferably all over his quarters. He gestured to Lexi.
“I figure that Lexi knows the medical jargon better than me, so she gives you guys that first and then I explain what it means for living with Sarah. It’s gonna sound like an instruction holo, but please just listen and then I’ll do my best to answer questions.”
Lexi gave him a quick, encouraging smile before she began:
“From what I have learned when studying human physiology, humans who have been diagnosed with autism struggle with social interaction and communication. Therefore, I expect that Sarah cannot naturally read social cues, and finds it difficult to make friends and interact with strangers. She can get so stressed in a social situation that she shuts down mentally. She rarely makes eye contact or small talk. She is very devoted to routines and order, and may have repetitive habits that come across as odd.” Lexi looked at Scott again, worried. He smiled at her.
“That… is actually pretty much on point how Sarah is. Basically” he turned back to the team, ”she is very introvert and struggles with talking to new people. She handles this by appearing to be very social but if you talk to her at length you'll soon realise that you don’t know anything important about her. She needs strict routines, likes to plan ahead and does not like surprises, however she deals with them fine. Most anxiety attacks happen after the event, sometimes hours after. She is also very insecure, and instinctively seeks approval from… well, everybody. Daddy dearest made sure to teach her she’s not normal and…” Scott pinched the bridge of his nose, something he always did when dealing with something that was hard on him.
“Uhm... Never promise her that you’re going to do something and then not keep it. Be as direct as possible when you talk to her, since she often does not understand if you mean something else than what you are saying. Oh, and don’t touch her unless she touches you first. Ever. And don’t touch her stuff without asking permission.”
A heavy silence reigned for several moments as the crew of the Tempest took in the information that had been rather unceremoniously dumped on them. Finally, it was Cora who asked the first question.
“Was it hard to grow up with a sister like that?” She immediately looked abashed, hanging her head.
“Not really” Scott replied, “I never thought about it. She’s just my Sarah. It was like… Sarah has a meltdown and cries on the kitchen floor if mum doesn’t make pasta on Thursdays? Okay, so Thursday is pasta night. I know it sounds weird, but to us it was natural. It was just Sarah. The middle spot on the shoe rack was for her sneakers, so if all other spots were full then you put your shoes on the floor or she’d panic over where to put her shoes when she got home.” Scott smiled and shook his head.
“Sounds weird” Peebee remarked, “but I was an only child.” Liam nodded in concord.
“I didn’t have any brothers like that, though there were six of us” he said, then cocked his head to the side as if realising something. “You’re gonna have to explain more, Ryder. I mean, it’s a week’s journey to Aya at high speed. If she’s no good with changes then that is going to be hell for her, knowing that when we arrive everything is going to change. We need to make it as easy for her as possible.” Scott smiled in gratitude at his friend; this was exactly why he considered Liam Costa one of the best men he had ever known. He didn’t question or ridicule Sarah even in her absence, he accepted her as she was and just wanted to know how to help her. Scott looked over at the others, taking in their expressions. He immediately felt about ten pounds lighter; he saw curiosity, acceptance, a bit of anticipation. But no ridicule or suspicion. Vetra clicked her mandibles in thought.
“You said she has issues with meeting new people.” she said slowly, “What will be easiest on her, meeting all of us at once so she knows who we are or you bringing her around?”
“I think she’d feel better if I brought her to meet one or two at a time, so if you could all just… go about your days as normal as possible, that’d be a great help. If she can see you in your environments, she can get a feel for you before saying anything. It’ll definitely make her less anxious.”
After that, the questions ranged from the really weird, like Koll’s “what are her anxiety tells, apart from elevated heart rate, blood pressure and a spike in body temperature?” and Suvi’s “is it okay if I sing and talk like normal when she’s around, or would that stress her out?” to Drack’s insightful and compassionate “if she has one of these anxiety attacks and you’re not around, how do we calm her down?” and Vetra’s “Are there any specific situations or items that will unavoidably trigger an anxiety attack? If we know, we can attempt to avoid them”. Scott could have kissed Gil when he, full of remorse, offered to draw up rudimentary schedules for everyone on board so that Sarah would not have to search for anyone she wanted to talk to - or avoid. When Scott at last ended the meeting and sent everyone on their way with the promise to come to him or Lexi with any questions or concerns, he was exhausted. But even though the circumstances were less than ideal, he was actually looking forward to bringing Sarah to see his crew. He just knew she’d like them.
Lexi was practically vibrating with excitement as she approached the cryo bay aboard the Hyperion. She had studied human psychological conditions of course, and had spent the last few days refreshing her knowledge - but she had never actually met anyone with autism. Then again, from what she had learnt from Scott’s descriptions Sarah was not obviously autistic, so she was sure it’d be fine. As long as she remembered not to touch her and not approach or address her until Scott gave the go-ahead. It would not do to frighten Sarah into an anxiety attack the first time she met her.
The cryo bay was surprisingly active, with several people lying on the beds and the nursing staff checking their vital signs as they awoke from their six hundred years long sleep. But Lexi was not interested in them: on one of the beds sat a young woman with long dark hair, dressed in a black and red suit. She had her arms wrapped around herself in a comforting manner, but the way her knuckles were white and her fingers tightly clenched Lexi knew it was a sign of distress. She was crooning, Lexi realized - a song that she had never heard before.
“...In Lahaina, the sugar-cane grows, in Lahaina, living is slow..”
“Ah hell” Scott muttered as he saw her. “I broke my promise.” Lexi stared at him confused, but cott ignored him and slowly began approaching the woman that had to be Sarah. And as he approached, he sang.
“in Lahaina, the mangoes are sweet, But the centipede he crawls all over your feet…”
The song went on, a silly little ditty about a centipede -some sort of earth creature, Lexi thought-, and finally Scott stood about two feet away from his sister.
“I’m sorry, zsa-zsa” he said gently as he crouched down to be on the same eye level as her. “I promised I’d be there when you woke up and I wasn’t. Will you look at me?”
There was silence, then the woman’s head slowly turned.
“I was scared” she whispered in a soft voice. “You promised me.”
“Yes, yes I did. I’m sorry, zsa-zsa. It was a promise I wanted to keep, but couldn’t. Remember when mum talked about that?”
Lexi was momentarily confused - she knew the pathfinder’s sister’s name was Sarah. But he was calling her zsa-zsa. Then she remembered that Scott had told them it was a favourite nickname from childhood and worked well to calm Sarah when she was distressed.
Scott held out his hand, palm up, but made no attempt to touch his sister.
“You’re my ohana” he said, gently, and finally she laid her hand in his.
“And ohana means” she replied,
“That no one gets left behind.” Scott finished, smiling gently, and with a sob that was half joy, half terror, Sarah threw herself into her brother’s arms.
“Oh, Sarah” Scott cried into his sister’s hair, “I missed you. I missed you so much.” The twins held each other close, and for several moments Lexi just watched the touching reunion with a lump in her throat. At last, Scott stood up slowly pulling Sarah with him, wiping at his wet eyes.
“I brought my friend, zsa-zsa” Scott said with the same gentle tone of voice, and Sarah slowly turned her head to look around, giving Lexi the chance to see her face. It was a bit of a surprise; Scott was tall and broad, with angular features and an unfortunate nose, but Sarah was dark and delicate. She had big brown eyes and a lush mouth that seemed to beg to be kissed, and her skin was darker than her brother’s. But the nose and jawline was the same and she had his air of gentleness and caring. In conclusion, she was a very pretty human female and if Lexi had been inclined that way she would have been very interested in pursuing her. As it was, she just hoped that she’d be able to make friends with her.
“Would you like to meet her?” Scotty asked, and the woman nodded her head slowly. Lexi immediately straightened her stance, doing her best to come off as professional but friendly.
“Hello Sarah” she said, keeping her voice carefully neutral. My name is Lexi. I work with Scott on the Tempest. I’m the medical officer.”
Sarah Ryder, who stood barefoot about two inches shorter than Lexi in heels, gave her a very sharp look. Then she smiled, and it was like the sun over Thessia.
“Hello Lexi” she said, her voice sweet as she held out her slim hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Lexi smiled back, helplessly, and held out her own hand. Sarah Ryder was not at all what she had expected.
song quoted is "Lahaina" sung by Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina. There is also a reference to Disney's Lilo & Stitch, which honestly has inspired most of this.
Apart from the autism bit, that's all me.
As the shuttle approached the nexus, Lexi fancied she could see Sarah paling a little more with each hum of the engines. By the time they actually stopped, she was as white as her brother’s hoodie and had started wringing her hands in a way that had to be painful.
“Sarah” Scott’s voice was low and gentle as he crouched down before her, just like he had in the cryo bay. “Do you want to wear my shirt? That way you can pull up the hood and not have to look at anyone. And we’ll go straight to the Tempest, I promise.”
There was a slow, barely noticeable nod, and Scott stood up to remove his shirt. As he did, the t-shirt he wore underneath shifted and for a moment Lexi saw a few inches of his lower back. It wasn’t much, but the horror of it was going to stay with her for a very long time. The entirety of the pathfinder’s lower back was a twisted mess of long, pale red lines; scar tissue , Lexi’s brain noted. Then the skin was once more covered and the hoodie was making it’s way over Sarah’s head.
Seeing the woman in her brother’s shirt only reinforced to Lexi how much the size of them differed; the fabric, which had strained over Scott’s broad shoulders, now fell in loose folds around Sarah, nearly covering her completely. The sleeves hung down past her hands, and the hem ended somewhere above her knees. She looked like a child in her father’s clothes, and the image was only reinforced by the way she seemed to hide under the hood, casting her face in shadows. Scott folded up the sleeves with the patience of a man having done it dozens of times before, and then he took a firm grip of her hand.
“Do you want to hold Lexis hand, too?” he asked, voice carefully neutral. Lexi couldn't see what sort of expression came over Sarah’s face, but whatever it was it made Scott flash a quick smile.
“Okay. let’s go, then. The faster we go, the faster we get it over with.”
“We won’t stop?” Sarah’s voice was barely audible.
“Not unless you want to” Scott promised.
And so they were off.
Scott kept his word, and kept a brisk pace through the common areas of the docks. A few people hailed or called to him, but he only smiled and shook his head, not for a moment letting go of his grip on Sarah’s hand. Finally, they stood before the doors to the tempest, and Scott finally stopped.
“Sarah, I have asked two of my crew to meet us, and they are most likely waiting on the other side. Is that okay, or should Lexi go ahead and ask them to leave?”
“Who are they?” Sarah asked, voice as quiet as it had been on the shuttle but not as insecure.
“The first one is one of my closest friends. His name is Liam Costa and I’m pretty confident you’re going to like him. He’s one of the nicest guys you’re ever going to meet.”
“Do I call him Liam or Costa?” Sarah wanted to know.
“You call him Liam. He’s the one who’s about as tall as me with frizzy brown hair and an adorable smile.”
“Do you have a crush on him, big brother? You sound like you do.”
“Only in a ‘it should be illegal to be that cute’-way.”
“Who’s the other one?”
“His name is Drack. He is a krogan, and about a thousand years old. He is a very honest person, and you can count on him to say what he means.”
“Does he mean what he says, too?”
“Most of the time, yes. He’s battlescarred, though, and rather large for a krogan. Try not to be intimidated by how he looks, he’s a nice guy. Just… don’t tell him he’s a nice guy or he gets cranky.”
Sarah laughed, and it sounded like wind chimes.
“I want to meet them.” she said, and Scott finally smiled.
“Alright then, let’s go meet them.”
The door opened slowly with the sort of humming sound that sounds almost satisfied and never failed to grate on Scotts nerves, and Sarah’s already strong grip on his hand became painful.
“It’s alright” he whispered to her as he led her into the ship.
Liam, who had bee leaning against the wall with an air of relaxed confidence, straightened up and looked with great interest at the hooded woman clinging to the pathfinder like she was afraid he’d leave her, but said nothing. Neither did Drack where he stood a bit further back.
“Sarah” Scott said as he escorted his sister forwards, gesturing to Liam. “this is Liam Costa, whom I told you about.”
Sarah pulled down her hood, and for a moment Liam felt like he’d been sucker-punched. The brunette who looked at him with anxious dark eyes was a level ten knock-out.
She also looked absolutely terrified.
Liam hesitated, then held out his hand for her to shake and gave his best friendly smile.
“Hello there Sarah” he said and tried to sound welcoming, “it’s nice to meet you.”
Sarah looked at him very intently for a few moments, then she smiled the prettiest smile he’d seen since waking up in Andromeda and laid her hand in his.
“Hello Liam” she said in a voice lower than he had expected. “It’s.. very nice to meet you, too.”
Then she looked at Drack.
“You have a lot of scars” she noted calmly, “are they very old?”
Drack smiled, or did what substituted smiling for krogans.
“That they are. Would you like to hear a few stories?”
Sarah lit up like flare gun.
“Yes, please!” then her eagerness turned into worry.
“I’m sorry, I’m supposed to introduce- my name is Sarah, I-”
Drack snorted and gestured with his heavy head.
“And I am Drack. Now come along, little Sarah, I have stories to tell.”
She glanced quickly back at Scott.
“Go on” he encouraged, smiling, and with that Drack disappeared towards the kitchen with his new admirer in tow.
“What… just happened?” Lexi asked.
“I have no idea.” Scott replied.
“Brother?” Sarah asked as she brushed her hair the first night aboard the tempest, “have I been sleeping long?”
“Six hundred years” Scott replied, knowing that wasn’t what she meant.
“Longer than you.” she clarified, “how much longer than you?”
Scott hesitated, looked down at his shirt that he was folding to put back in the closet.
“Many months, Sarah. You slept for many months more than me.”
“Were you very lonely?”
“No, I had my friends.”
“Drack and Liam and Lexi?”
“That’s right. And the rest of the crew.”
Sarah put the brush down, thinking it over.
“Did anyone love you?” She finally asked.
“What sort of love are you asking about, Sarah?”
“The kind that holds you at night. The kind I will have with Jaal.”
“I…” Scott wasn't sure how to answer that. Two faces flashed before his inner eye. Two very different men.
“Did they?” Sarah insisted.
“Yes” Scott finally said, quietly. “Two people. You met the first one today. My engineer. Gil.”
“So he is your sweetheart?”
Scott laughed softly, remembering his mother trying to explain to a very confused Sarah what romance was. It had ended with his mother's embarrassment and Sarah's frustration leading to an explosion of epic proportions. Father had put a firm end to the whole thing when he'd told Sarah she was not to worry about it, that she'd probably never be anyone's sweetheart.
It still stung to remember how she had cried that night.
"Sco-eee" she twisted and drew out his name in a way she only did when she thought he was being incomprehensible. "Is GIl your sweetheart?"
“I suppose he is.”
Sarah looked puzzled.
“I don’t understand.”
Scott sighed, and sat down on his bed, looking at her where she sat on the spare bunk they’d put in his quarters.
“It’s complicated” he finally ventured.
“Then explain it to me” Sarah insisted, looking at him with expectant eyes. “Or is this one of those things sisters aren't supposed to ask about?”
Their mother had used that explanation many times when they were younger - that it was something sisters (or daughters) weren’t supposed to ask about. It made Sarah stop asking, but it didn't stop her wondering.
And besides, he’d missed her particular brand of honesty.
“I’m his sweetheart” he said, using words she was familiar with. “He… he isn’t mine.”
Sarah frowned as she mulled it over.
“And the other one?” she wanted to know.
“That was… well, he wasn’t my sweetheart either. And I wasn’t his. Maybe we could be, someday.”
Sarah curled up under the thin blanket that had been all he could find which he was confident she would accept. Textures were One Of Those Things.
“Is there anyone who is your sweetheart, brother?”
Scott had been expecting the question, but he still flinched when he heard it. He thought of the one person he was no longer allowed to think of like that. The first man in years that had made his heart beat faster with something other than desire. The man who was waiting for his sister.
Then he turned his face away from his sister, and lied.
“No, there isn’t anyone.”
He waited until she had fallen asleep before he left his quarters; he needed someone to hold him at night.
He headed towards engineering.
Sarah looked curiously at Avela, the angaran female that had been chosen to help Sarah prepare for her married life. Avela looked back, just as curious. Avela was about the same size as Sarah, the soft folds of her skin was a gentle purple and her eyes large and dark, and she wondered if Sarah with her pink skin and dark… hair, was that the word?, was considered beautiful by her species.
To be honest, Avela wasn’t quite sure what to make of Sarah: she knew the human woman was autistic, whatever that meant. Amongst Avela’s people, a female like Sarah would simply be considered as a much beloved sister and daughter who was not quite the rest of them. But Avela had come to understand that the people from the Milky Way liked to put labels on things. So far she had learnt that Sarah was female, human, autistic, young, twin, and pathfinder’s sister.
“I am Avela” Avela finally said, when Sarah did not seem to want to begin the conversation. “I am here to help you prepare for your marriage, and to teach you about angaran culture.” That cause a rather surprising reaction; Sarah looked up, her face bright and hopeful.
“Teach? You will answer my questions?” she asked in a voice that was very pleasant to Avela’s ears, soft and sweet like ripe paripo, freshly picked. She had very pretty dark eyes and softly golden skin, and Avela thought that she would give Jaal very handsome kits.
“Yes” she said as a reply to the human woman’s question. “I will teach you and answer all your questions.”
Sarah beamed at her as she pulled a datapad from her pocket.
“I love to learn! Do I need to take notes?” She asked, eager like a new student wanting to impress.
“Perhaps” Avela said, amused. “Now, we will begin with basic interaction. Please, sit.” She gestured to the only available chair, opposite the one she was sitting in. “When you first meet Jaal, you will want to greet him like this…”
It was about 11.57 ship time when Sarah looked up from her datapad, biting her lip in hesitation.
“Avela?” she asked shyly and looked mortified at having spoken up. Avela smiled affectionately at the woman. So young, this Sarah, in so many ways. As gentle as a bird.
“Yes, Sarah?” Avela liked Sarah; she had proven to be a diligent student, taking copious notes and asking many questions. She had also been willing to practice the gestures Avela had explained to her, even though the pathfinder had warned Avela not to touch his sister unnecessarily.
“I have lunch at twelve” the human woman whispered, worrying her lower lip with her teeth.
“Then we shall go prepare our meal” Avela said and rose from her chair. The pathfinder had told her explicitly that routine was important to someone who was autistic , and if lunch was usually taken at twelve it was best to have it then. She had not yet seen Sarah truly anxious, but pathfinder Ryder had been very thorough when explaining how to make this journey easy for Sarah. Well, as easy as possible. So far, the woman had not seemed particularly worried about her entire life being about to change. Perhaps that would come later, Avela figured as she opened a cupboard in the tiny kitchen.
“What do you usually eat, Sarah?”
“I…” the woman hesitated. “What do you eat for lunch on... Aya?”
Avela nodded in approval. It was good if she learned as quickly as possible.
“On Aya it is very hot during the day, so lunch is a light repose usually composed of fruit. You drink fruit juice or water.”
“Then... “ Sarah looked worried for a moment, then it was as if she came to a decision as she squared her shoulders. “Then I eat ayan fruit and drink water, please.”
That said, Avela prepared two plates of paripo and nutrition paste; more fruit and less paste for her student.
“What is this?” Sarah asked, worried, as she looked at her plate. “It does not look like fruit.”
“It is a nutrition paste, made from vitamins and vegetables. Angarans eat it daily, since it is easy to prepare and not relying on certain ingredients. Try putting some on your paripo; the sweetness of the fruit will accompany it nicely.”
Sarah took her knife and spread a little of the paste on a slice of the bright red fruit. Then, she looked up at Avela again, seeking confirmation. Avela gave her another approving nod. Sarah flashed a quick, shy smile and looked back down at her plate. She still did not eat, only looking at the piece of fruit.
Avela looked at her for a moment, puzzled, then she understood.
“You do not need to use the cutlery, Sarah. You can eat the paripo with your fingers.”
“Oh. Thank you.” Sarah raised the food to her mouth and took a cautious bite. A strange look came over her face.
“It… tastes not like it smells” she finally ventured.
“Do you not like it?” Avela asked, concerned. The paste was a dish that angarans ate daily - if Sarah would not, she might get malnourished. Sarah’s eyebrows were still furrowed as she chewed, then she swallowed and licked her lips, chasing the sticky juice from the paripo .
“I will learn to like it” she said decisively. “And you will teach me how to make it for my husband.”
“Very good, Sarah.”
“Do you think Jaal is going to be upset I don’t have a gift for him?”
Scott was currently positioned under the Nomad, which was his favorite place on the tempest. He had always been a tinkerer, so mucking around with engines and cables was the ultimate relaxation.
Sarah’s worry, however, startled him so bad he banged his head on a tube, and now his head was throbbing and blood was trickling into his eyes.
He untangled himself from the cables so that he could extract himself and look at his sister, who was more or less hiding in his second best hoodie.
“Sorry, what was the question?” Sarah ignored him.
“You’re bleeding” she said. “Shall I fetch Lexi?”
“No, I’ll go see her myself. What was your question, Sarah?”
“Avela said jaal will give me a git when I arrived, and I don’t have a gift for him. Do you think he will be upset?”
“I doubt it, but if you’re worried you can ask Cora or Liam to help you come up with something. I’m no good at gifts.”
Sarah thought about it for a few moments.
“I shall ask Cora” she decided, “she is a woman.” Well, no arguments there.
Sarah turned to leave, then she remembered something and turned back.
“Scottie,” she said, frowning. “What’s your present for jaal?”
“I’m sorry?” he was supposed to give a gift to the groom? And Avela had neglected to tell him this? He was going to shoot her out the bloody airlock.
“You are my only family.” Sarah said as if that explained everything when it really didn’t.
“Well” Scott said as he carefully got to his feet. The blood was really distracting. “Help me to Lexi and you can explain why that matters on the way.”
“And my name is Scott.”
“I know that, Scottie. Why do you tell me?”
“Because I want you to call me Scott, not Scottie. It makes me feel like a five-year-old.”
“Oh. I’m sorry Scott.” But she looked so unhappy when she said it, he put his arm around her slim shoulders.
“You know what, I’ve changed my mind. I don’t mind you calling me Scottie. Now, about that gift?”
“Avela says that the family of the bride gives a gift to the groom and vice versa.”
“I see. So it’s not enough I give him my sister?”
“No, I’m the bride!”
“Well, then we’re both in a bit of trouble, aren’t we?”
A little later, once Lexi was done lecturing him about not wearing protective goggles, sarah looked at him with that expectant expression again.
“Scottie” she began, ignoring Lexi who was trying to scan her vital signs, “Why haven’t you introduced me to your sweetheart yet? Are you ashamed of him?”
Lexi froze, scanner raised, staring wide-eyed at Scott who stared back, equally panicked.
“I… why would you ask that?” Scott replied, trying to buy time.
“Because I know you're not ashamed of me.” Sarah beamed at ths. “You told me so and you never lie to me. But sometimes you don't tell me things, which is like lying.”
Well, now she had him good and cornered. Scott found himself wishing desperately for a sudden gett attack.
“I'm... I'm not ashamed, Sarah.”
She clearly didn’t believe him. “But-”
“But I haven't introduced you because he is not currently on board.” Scott said hurriedly, really not wanting to talk about this anymore.
“When will I meet him then?” She clearly wasn’t going to let him get out of this.
Scott sighed deeply. “When we arrive on Aya, Sarah.”
“How will I know who it is?” She immediately wanted to know. “Is he angaran?”
“Yes. He’s…” Scott licked his lips, “he’s angaran.”
“So how will I know which one is him? Avela taught me how do see differences.”
Scott looked down at his hands, not wanting to meet either Sarah’s questioning or Lexi’s compassionate eyes.
“You can’t miss him, zsa-zsa.” he murmured.
“How?” she insisted, “how will I know? I want him to like me.”
“He’s… he’s going to like you just fine, zsa-zsa.”
“But how?” she insisted like a stubborn five-year-old.
Scott blinked back tears.
“Because you’re marrying him.” he whispered.
There was a moment of silence as Sarah came to terms with what he had just said.
Then her big brown eyes turned huge and haunted, and she started to tremble. Seeing one of her tantrums coming towards them at full speed, Scott still after over twenty years had no way of stopping them.
“They’re making me hurt Scottie!” Sarah howled as she fell to her knees, wailing in a way that made Scott’s blood run cold. “I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna!” she shrieked, “I don’t wanna!”
Scott wrapped her in his arms, even though her fists hammered at his chest as she wailed that she didn't want to, she didn't want to, she didn't want to.
They both knew she didn’t have a choice in the matter.
A thousand apologies that there has been such a long delay. Life got in the way.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It had taken Scott half an hour to get Sarah to a state in which she could be reasoned with, but the crying had not stopped. She kept sobbing like her heart was shattering until Drack, of all people, sat down on the floor of the medbay with Sarah in his lap. Wrapping his heavy arms around her, he sang a really weird song about a baby thresher maw who wanted to eat rocks. It took two repeats, but eventually Sarah was quiet. She was not calm, but her wails had stopped and now there were just silent tears as Drack rocked her like a child.
After an eternity, she spoke into Drack’s breastplate.
“They’re making me hurt Scottie” she whispered.
“I know” Drack agreed. “And it sucks, little one. But you can’t do anything about it. So you better put your chin up, recharge your gun, and get back into the fight, because the clan needs you.”
Suvi approached carefully, unsure of her welcome.
“You must be very upset, Sarah” she said quietly, “would you feel better, if you sang a song or two? The path- Scott says you have loads of songs from earth. Maybe you could teach me one?”
Sarah looked up. Her face was tear-streaked.
“I can't think of any happy ones” she whispered.
“That’s alright” Suvi smiled, “sing me a sad one.” she knelt slowly, so she could look straight at Sarah. The young woman gave Scott a questioning glance, as if only just realising that he was there, and he smiled back at her. No matter what, the worst pain of all was the thought of her crying. He could handle his own heartbreak, but he didn’t know how to deal with hers.
“ E ku'u lei ” Sarah hiccuped, her voice echoing sorrowfully through the medbay. “ e hele mai 'oe… A 'ike i na waiwai… ”
In the same hushed tones, Scott answered her.
“o ke kai 'uli iho. Mai 'uwe 'oe…”
“e ku'u lei hiwa” he fell to his knees, as she unwound her arms from around Drack’s neck and reached for him.
“E aloha wau... ia 'oe na kau a kau.” they finished together, both looking like a pair of lost children. With a small sob, Sarah fell from Drack’s lap into Scotts like a broken ragdoll. They held each other close.
“You’re my ohana” she whispered into his neck.
“And I will never leave you behind” he answered, like had always done.
“I’m sorry, Scottie.”
“I know. And you have nothing to be sorry for. Drack is right. Chin up and back into the fray.”
Sarah was as usual completely exhausted after her meltdown, so Scott escorted her back to their room and tucked her into bed.
“I don’t want to marry him Scottie” she whispered, miserable. Scott sat down on the edge of her bed.
“Would you want to marry him if I wasn’t in love with him?”
Sarah’s brow furrowed in thought, then she nodded slowly.
“Then I’m not in love with him anymore.” he said, gently.
“It doesn’t work like that Scottie.”
Scott leaned down and kissed her forehead.
“It has to, this time. Now get some sleep.”
“I understand you’ve had a rough morning, Sarah” Avela said carefully as she examined her student. Sarah was unusually pale, and her hands kept worrying the hem of the over-sized hoodie she wore. Probably belonged to the pathfinder, she figured.
“I’m going to hurt Scottie.” Sarah replied unhappily.
“I am sorry to hear that. How do you know this?”
“I’m marrying his sweetheart.”
This was news to Avela. But to be honest, it made a lot of sense considering the pathfinder’s behaviour. She had met him before, and the past few days surliness and avoidance had not been something she expected from him. If he had romantic feelings for the male that was for his sister, his behaviour became rather obvious.
“This will be difficult for you both” Avela said compassionately. “But it has been decided, and you must serve your people to the best of your ability. And in time, you and Jaal will grow to love each other well.”
“But what about Scottie?” Sarah wanted to know.
“He will learn to love Jaal as a brother, and then you will all be content.” Sarah seemed to accept this; a bit of colour returned to her pale cheeks.
“Now, we must discuss something important.” Avela went on, not looking forward to the conversation she knew she must have with the human female.
Sarah looked up, curious.
“What is that?” She wanted to know. Avela hesitated. But then she figured that the direct approach would be most effective.
“Sarah, How comfortable would you be in speaking of your body with me?”
“Why?” Sarah squeaked, almost looking frightened.
“Your brother has informed me that you have no experience in sexual matters. You are also going to mate with a male from another species than yours, and I have determined that the best way for you to know what to expect is if you know the differences between your body and that of a female of one of his species. The best way to explain is by demonstration.”
She pulled out a data pad, sitting down next to Sarah on the floor.
“On this pad, I have many images of male angarans in different stages of nudity. Some are aroused. I have also asked Lexi to join us for this, so she can explain to you how your body works. I am confident that together, Lexi and I will be able to answer all your questions and put your mind at ease.”
Sarah had paled as Avela spoke. Now she looked at the pad with the same apprehension as if she was facing a poisonous snake and was being asked to pet it.
“I’ve never-” she whispered, eyes haunted. Avela gave her an encouraging pat to the hand.
“I’ve never seen anyone undressed” Sarah finally said, “except for mother.”
Avela nodded in understanding. This was a very weird, probably awkward situation. But if Sarah managed this, she’d be a lot calmer when Jaal brought her to their mating nest.
“Then I understand that you are anxious. But this is important, Sarah. You and Jaal are expected to lie together shortly after your arrival, and I think it would be best for you both if you were aware of what that entails beforehand.”
Avela powered up the pad, loading the first picture. It showed an angaran male, tall and strong with soft purple skin and strong stomach muscles. He was only wearing a pair of loose slacks, covering him from the waist down.
“Is that Jaal?” Sarah wanted to know.
“No, it is one of my brothers. He consented to let me use some of his and his partners private pictures to show you.”
“Is he married to a female?” Sarah wondered, the fear in her eyes turning to curiosity.
“No, his mate is male. I have pictures of him, too.”
Just then, the door opened to admit Lexi, also armed with a pad.
“Hello Sarah, Avela. I see you have started.”
“Yes, we have. Come, sit with us” Avela invited.
“Is that alright, Sarah?” Lexi asked, turning to the human woman, who nodded slowly.
Lexi knelt on the floor.
“Where would you be most comfortable with me sitting?” Lexi asked kindly. Sarah thought about it for a few moments.
“Next to me” she finally decided, “I think I would feel calm if I could feel both of you on either side of me.”
Lexi scooted over so she sat next to Sarah, hip to hip and knee to knee. Sarah took the pad from Avela.
“Easier this way” she said, looking back to the picture of Avela’s brother.
“The first thing I see that’s different” Lexi said, “is that his chest is completely flat. A human male has nipples, but I don’t see any on him.”
Avela shook her head, “Males cannot nurse, so they’re unnecessary” she explained, seeing the bewildered look in Sarah’s eyes.
Avela clicked the pad, loading the next picture.
“This is my brother’s mate” she explained, “and as you can see his shoulders are broader-”
The song Sarah sings is 'Always' from "Lilo & Stitch 2". Loosely translated to english, the lyrics are:
“O my beloved child, come
And see the riches of the deep blue sea
Don't cry, oh my precious one
I shall love you forever”
Real life is kicking my ass. Trying to juggle college, work, depression, mental illness, and family who doesn't understand (but they're trying, bless them) is... well. It's not fun and I don't wish it on my worst enemy.
This fic is NOT abandoned, but it will take time to get on with it.
That, and I think I'm finally starting to understand exactly what I'm putting Sarah through. And I'm not done with her yet.
When Sarah was left alone in the rooms she shared with Scott, she fell onto the couch with a distressed whimper. The past hour had been the most embarrassing hour of her life. Much worse than that time when she was twelve and her mother had explained why she was suddenly bleeding down there. But at the same time, she had to admit it had been rather soothing for her frazzled nerves. There had been many, many pictures of angaran males and human females but she couldn’t help but worry about how none of them had been of the one she was supposed to marry. She wondered about him. What did he look like? The width of his shoulders, the slope of his hips. How would he react when she touched the parts Avela had told her were erogenous? Would he welcome her touch or shun away. It was the not knowing that really bothered her; it meant that her anxious brain kept coming up with possibilities until it felt like it was about to explode and melt out of her ears. And what would he think of her? She didn’t look like an angaran female, well she had breasts and- she hardly dared even think of what lay between her legs. It had always been something that was just there, but not to be bothered with. But Jaal was going to-
Goodness. Jaal. Lexi had explained about how he would enter her and how if she was tense it could be painful, and that she must try to relax and let Jaal touch her, and to touch him. Avela had added that the angarans didn’t count a marriage as completed until they had joined together… so Jaal was going to put his… his cock in her. How exactly was she supposed to relax, knowing that? Let him please you Lexi had said soothingly. But Sarah didn’t feel particularly soothed. She’d never really bothered with sex; it was something people did, but she wasn’t interested. Show him how to touch you, Avela had told her. He will be curious and a bit unsure, like you. And that was all fine and dandy, except for one thing. Sarah didn’t know how she wanted Jaal to touch her.
She glanced at the flexi lying on the table in front of her, curious but reluctant. It was the one Avela had given her, the one with the pictures of angaran males. There had been exactly one picture of Jaal, but only of his face and he had been dressed. Sarah wondered if he was considered handsome. He had a big mouth, anyways. Well, big compared to hers. She didn’t know if it was big for an angaran. How would it be to kiss a mouth like that? His eyes were impossibly dark, like they only consisted of pupils, and he didn’t have any hair anywhere. Maybe she ought to shave, so she’d be smooth like an angaran? But she was scared of shaving down there - what if she cut herself? And she couldn’t imagine asking any of the other women on board to help her.
After a few moments of hesitation, she picked up the flexi and turned it on. After a few moments of searching, she found the one that had the male whose genitalia was fully unsheathed and hard. Sarah felt a shiver through her body to pool warm and heavy between her legs as she tried to imagine Jaal like that as he stood in front of her. He’d put his hands on her body, she knew that, and wondered what they’d feel like. If his hands were big, like his mouth and his eyes. It scared her a little, but mostly she was curious. Was his hands soft, like Lexi’s, or calloused, like Scott’s? How would they feel when they touched her skin?
In only two days, she was going to find out.
It was easier to focus on his appearance; if she kept thinking about that, and about how he was going to have sex with her, she didn’t have to think about all the other things it entailed to be married. Like how it was for ever. Like how she was expected to have a baby. Or several. She’d tried to ask, but no one would tell her how many babies she was supposed to have.
What was life supposed to be like, now? She was going to be someone’s wife, and eventually a mother. She was going to live amongst a people different from her own, and she wondered if it’d make her feel even more like a freak than she already did.
Sarah had always been strange; different, confused, insecure, oblivious. But she’d had Scottie, and her mother, and it had been alright. But on Aya she was going to have nobody. No one who understood without her having to explain everything. And everyone was going to be watching. She was going to be the only human woman on an entire planet. All alone, with only Jaal as her friend. And what if he didn’t like her? Scott had told her that Jaal was a good man, and kind, but- what if he thought she was weird? Or if she hurt him, without knowing she had. Would he tell her? And what did he expect of her, apart from sex? Who did he want her to be. She didn’t know. Didn’t know anything. She tried to force the fear away, looking at the pictures Avela had given her.
It didn’t help. All alone in Scottie’s quarters, Sarah curled up, making herself as small as possible, and cried.
Avela finished writing her message and sent it, hoping she hadn’t made too much of a mess in explaining how human females were built. She’d included a few pictures Lexi had helped her find in her database, but apparently it wasn't very good pictures. But it was all she had; this way, Jaal would not be completely unprepared for his bride.
She had made sure to include the very odd custom of human females to bleed from their privates every twenty-eight days, something no angaran female did. She had also added a note that during the bleeding Sarah would be moody and sensitive and that he ought to be careful with her.
She added Lexi’s short text on human female anatomy in an appendix, signed her name and sent it off to Jaal, hoping he would take the time to read it thoroughly. In less than two days, he was going to marry Sarah.
Avela leaned back in her chair, thinking. She had already decided not to tell Jaal about Scott being in love with him; it would only lead to unnecessary heartache. The pathfinder was a good man, and she felt confident that he would not do anything to endanger his sister’s wedding. She just needed to make sure he didn’t get intoxicated; she’d learnt that humans did stupid things when under the influence of alcoholic beverages.
Satisfied with her decision, she turned her thoughts back to Sarah. She like the human woman, who had proven to be intelligent and sweet. Avela hoped she would do well on Aya. The panic attack earlier in the day had alarmed the angaran, but she wasn’t sure how to tell Jaal about it. Perhaps it was best if she did not; it would be easier to explain to him in person, she figured.
Then again, perhaps it was better to warn him? If he was faced with a Sarah having a meltdown without knowing it could happen or how to deal with it he might think his mate was somehow defective.
But she knew very little of this condition, and no one on the ship seemed to know much either. Apart from the pathfinder, but he seemed to be rather ignorant too; to him, Sarah was Sarah and there was nothing strange about her. Avela hoped Jaal would find it in him to be patient with Sarah, because she was going to need that more than anything. Patience, and a friend.
So maybe she ought to tell Jaal what she knew, so that he would know a little before meeting her. So that he’d understand how special Sarah was, how different from both angaran and human females.
She mulled it over for several minutes. Then she opened a new mail and started writing.
You need to be aware that your mate suffers from a human condition called ‘autism’. It is non-contagious to angaran and she will most likely not pass it to your kits. However, it requires much from you; you are going to have to be very, very patient with her.
This is what I have learnt about the condition so far…
Scott stood by the email terminal and tried to not look like his entire world had just been thrown off kilter. He had been rather rattled when Sarah found out about Jaal, but now it was definitely in free fall.
Reyes had emailed him. It shouldn’t have been such an occasion, except it was. Somehow the man had managed to get himself invited to Sarah’s wedding as the representative of the Milky Way Kadaran settlement and was journeying there along with a group of angarans that were apparently also invited. We can… catch up, he’d written. That meant Gil and Reyes at the same party with access to alcohol. He was so screwed, and not in the good way. It was going to be a disaster.
“How many people are going to be there?” he muttered as he turned off the terminal and turned to climb into his galaxy view piedestal. He liked to stand there and stare out at space; it never failed to remind how how small he was, and therefore his problems were.
“From what I’ve heard” Suvi replied cheerily, “anyone who is anyone is going to be there to see the Milky Way Peace Bride. It’s going to be quite a party.”
“I hope someone invited the kett” Scott groaned, “I’m going to need a good fight.”
“Or fuck” Suvi chirped, sticking her tongue out at him.
“Careful, Anwar. I am not completely opposed to the idea of locating a nice uninhabited planet, send you on a mission and forget to retrieve you.” But he couldn’t keep himself from smiling.
Things were finally starting to get steamy when Cora stormed into the engine room, more than a little wild-eyed.
“Damn it!” Scott and Gil chorused as they both desperately scrambled for their clothes, but Cora did not seem to notice that the pathfinder had been mostly nude and in the other man’s lap when she entered.
“Ryder!” She cried, “we need you on the observation deck now! We can’t calm Sarah!”
Scott stopped trying to adjust his erection and stormed off down the hall like a bat out of hell, the other two hot on his heels. Sarah was just going to have to deal with his current state of dishevelment.
Sarah stood in the middle of the observation deck, huddled in on herself in a way Scott knew and dreaded. As he came closer he could see that tears were streaming down her pale cheeks, and she had her arms wrapped so hard around herself it was as if she was trying to disappear. Scott took one look at her and then took her in his arms, the one thing he knew would work every time. Sarah was, even with her autism, a very tactile person; if she was as upset as she was at the present, the only thing that really helped her was to be held by a person she trusted.
“What’s wrong, zsa-zsa?” Scott crooned as he rocked her slowly, feeling the trembles in her body slow and calm. Eventually, she lay in his arms like a limp doll, still crying.
“It’s the dress” Suvi said, clearly anxious. “Once we got her into it she freaked and we couldn’t calm her.”
“It’s the latest fashion” Lexi said. “What’s wrong with it?”
Scott slowly disengaged himself from Sarah, needing to see it for himself.
“Let me see, Sarah” he soothed, “I can’t help if I don’t know what’s wrong.”
Sarah hesitantly unwound her arms, showing him the dress she was in.
It was white, foot long and tight fitting, emphasising every curve of her body. On the sides, small holes were cut out in a line from the armpit to the hip, showing off her soft skin. It had a deep cleavage and was held up mostly by two thin shoulder straps. She was stunning - as long as one did not look at her face. For when one did, one was faced with a frightened little girl seeking reassurance when none was to be found.
“Oh” Scott said, “I see.”
“What is it?” Lexi insisted, clearly rattled at Sarah’s tears.
“It’s very revealing.” Scott answered, not looking away from his sister. “Too revealing. Isn’t that right, Sarah? And so many people are going to see you in it.”
There was a nod, then she hid her face in her shaking hands.
There was a very uncomfortable silence.
“What do we do” Suvi fretted, “we don’t have any more fabric.”
Scott removed his shirt, ignoring the fact that multiple marks and scratches were clear for everyone to see as he wrapped it around Sarah, shielding her from unwanted looks.
The silence dragged on, uncomfortable and heavy. The only interruptions was the occasional hiccup from Sarah, who still hid her face.
Then Liam muttered something unintelligible and disappeared down the stairs, the noise of his heavy boots fading out until there was silence once more.
Scott held Sarah close, like she was a small child needing a father more than a young woman with her brother. He wondered how much of the tears were from the dress, and how much came from finally understanding what was expected of her.
“I’m scared” she whispered, barely audible. “I’m so scared.”
“I know. It’s not fair. You do know I’d stop this, if I could?”
She curled into him like he was everything that held her together.
“I don’t want this.”
Scott’s heart broke.
“I know. But it’s going to be alright eventually, I promise you. Jaal is one of the best men I have ever met, and in these circumstances I can't think of anyone better suited than him.”
Sarah turned her head up; her eyes were wet, wide, pleading.
“This is for ever, Scottie” she said.
“Yes, little sister. It is. And with all my heart I wish I could protect you. But this time, I can’t.”
It felt like an eternity before Liam returned, mostly because no one had moved while he was gone. No one knew what to do; they didn’t have another dress, and they were only hours away from Aya. This was Sarah’s wedding day, and maybe they were all finally understanding just what was happening.
This was the day when they were going to hand over a very vulnerable young woman to strangers. And then they were going to leave her with them.
Suvi looked like she wanted to cry, too, but forced back her tears. Drack put a heavy hand on Sarah’s slim back n silent comfort.
Liam returned, looking triumphant. He held a thin, worn pale blue blanket that Scott recognised from the couch in his quarters.
“You guys wanted fabric” he said triumphantly, “I got some!”
Lexi stared at the blanket in bewilderment.
“What do we do with that?” She sounded incredulous.
But Cora grabbed it from Liam and spread it on the floor.
“Get me a knife or something. To cut with. I have an idea.”
Sarah looked at herself in the tall mirror Lexi had procured from who knew where. Cora had cut the blue blanket into a long strip about two feet wide, and now she was wrapping it around Sarah. First around the waist, pulling it tight so it’d stay still and then up over one shoulder, around her back, and down over the other shoulder. Around the waist once more, and suddenly Sarah was wearing a blue wrap top. It covered her waist, shoulders and upper arms, and it looked sort of pretty.
“Can you move your arms?” Cora asked from behind her, attaching the edge of the fabric with small metal clamps Gil had fetched from the Nomad’s repair kit.
“Yes, thank you.”
It was a bit tight over the arms, but it was okay.
“Hmm” Cora made a disbelieving sound, then cut thin lines in the back, one by each arm. The fabric fell in a way it wasn’t noticeable, but it increased Sarah’s movement range tenfold.
“How do I look?” Sarah looked at Scott, anxious.
“Pretty as a picture” he assured her, “if a bit blotchy.”
“Wash her face” Lexi ordered, “fix her hair, and she’ll be perfect.”
“I don’t have anything borrowed” she said quietly, rewarding her with several confused looks.
“New dress, old shoes, blue blanket… but nothing borrowed.”
Draco snorted with amusement.
“Here” he said, as he removed a small piece of his armor. He attached it to the lower part of the blanket, so it sat just above her right hip. It looked like an exotic piece of jewellry.
Sarah smiled shakily.
Once the debacle of the dress had been solved there came the issue of the actual ceremony. Sarah had no idea how it worked. Thus they spent the rest of the scant hours to arrival going through it over and over again (Liam stepping in as the groom). Eventually, Sarah stopped looking like she was going to cry when she swore to walk beside him, wherever his path would lead. She even managed to keep her hands steady as she placed the coiled wires they used as substitutes for flower wreaths around Liam's head and neck.
“She’s ready” Avela said quietly to Scott as she watched Sarah bow to an imagined Elder. Scott nodded in agreement, looking away from the angaran female. Sarah might be ready, but he wasn’t.
Sarah’s grip on Scott’s hand went from hard to rigid as she stood in front of the great panoramic window, watching as they approached Aya.
“Fifteen minutes” Kallo informed in his emotionless voice, but he cast a worried glance at the Ryder twins.
“You okay” Scott whispered, squeezing back as Sarah’s grip turned painful.
She swallowed hard, slowly moving her head in a way that could mean both no and yes.
“I have to be” she replied, just as quietly.
“You look stunning” he told her, wondering if it’d help. Sarah had never cared much about her appearance.
“Like a bride?” She asked, eyes huge and anxious.
“Like the prettiest bride in the entire galaxy.”
She shook her head.
“You've only seen me.”
“Maybe. But you’re still stunning.” he smiled at her, doing his best to hide his own apprehension.
They stood in silence, seeing as the planet approached rapidly.
“Five minutes!” Kallo called.
Scott squeezed Sarah’s trembling hand one last time, then led her towards the docking bay.
“Showtime, little sister.”
The ramp seemed to take an eternity as it lowered, but maybe Scott thought so because Sarah’s grip on his arm was now making his fingers go numb. He looked at her from out of the corner of his eye, noting her clenched jaw and pale cheeks. But she didn’t cry, shake, or try to hide. She stood tall and proud as a queen, every bit the representative of the Milky Way that she was expected to be.
They walked slowly down the ramp, Scott hoping desperately that he looked more confident than he felt. He had seen angarans before, of course, but never this many. They were everywhere; all of them still and quiet as they watched the human party descend from the Tempest. Scattered amongst the angarans were humans, turians and even a few salarians, and once more Scott promised himself that the moment he was able to leave he was going to find the asari. It was wrong Lexi and Peebee alone had to represent their people.
Sarah made a small questioning noise, and he turned his head slightly towards her.
“See the tall one, holding flowers?”
“Yes” Sarah whispered.
Three angarans stepped forward from the crowd; Jaal, Moshae Sjefa, and one Scott had never seen before. He felt reasonably confident that it was a female, but he wasn’t completely confident.
“ Paavoa , pathfinder.” the Moshae said, inclining her head in respect. Scott bowed in response.
“Thank you, Moshae. We are honoured.”
“The honour is ours, for you bring the finest gift your people can bestow on ours.” The Moshae turned to look at Sarah, who was obeying Avela’s instructions and waiting silently to be addressed.
“ Paavoa , Sarah.”
Sarah curtsied, shyly murmuring a “thank you, I am honored.”
There was a pleased glimmer in the Moshae’s large, dark eyes. Then, she stepped aside so that Jaal and Sarah could actually look at each other.
He was taller than she had expected, Sarah thought as she looked up at the male that was to be her husband. He was dressed in a long white embroidered robe, which Avela had explained was traditional. It hid his bulk almost completely, but she had seen a picture of him in his usual gab and knew how big he was. He was also carrying a rather large bouquet of flowers, which had her confused. Avela hadn’t said anything about bouquets, only wreaths.
“Sarah” he began, and she wondered if the odd note in his voice was nervousness. “I welcome you to Aya, and thank yuo for the honor you have bestowed on me.” He held out his hand, offering the bouquet. “I have been told that human brides carry flowers. I picked these for you.”
Sarah felt something small and shy and warm bubble inside her. Jaal had actually gone out and picked flowers for her! She stepped forward and accepted the bouquet.
“Thank you” she said, not knowing what else to say. She lifted the flowers to her face to smell them. They smelled wonderfully, like something she couldn’t name, and their deep vivid colours were almost completely unlike anything she’d seen before.
Then, the third angaran stepped forward, looking at Sarah up and down. Then, much to Sarah’s surprise, they wrapped her in a warm hug and said, in a voice that was distinctly feminine: “I am Sahuna, mother of Jaal. Paavoa , daughter.”
Sarah made an undignified squeaking noise somewhere in the embrace, but when the angaran let her go she was smiling.
“Thank you… mother.”
Scott wondered if he was allowed to laugh at Sarah’s expression, but figured that even if he was she’d make him suffer from it and kept his amusement to himself as he watched Jaal and Sarah approach the Moshae, who had stepped over to an arch of flowers and leaves. It almost made the ache in his chest disappear, seeing his sister stand next to Jaal under the arch as the Moshae began her traditional speech.
“Seems they are in a hurry” Liam muttered somewhere behind him.
“It’s tradition” Suvi whispered back, “Avela told me that they must be wedded within the hour, and with so many people-”
“Hush, both of you!” Cora hissed.
The speech was held in angaran, so Scott only understood a few words. Something about unions, and family, and fate. Well, at least that’s what it sounded like. The melodies of the angaran tongue sounded like birdsong to him - very pretty, but completely incomprehensible.
After what seemed like an eternity during which he tried his damnedest to look attentive, the Moshae signaled to him to step forward. Greatly relieved that Avela had made him practice this part, Scott knew exactly what was expected of him.
He picked up the large wreath of flowers from the table to the right of the arch, and turned to Sarah. He handed it to her, accepting her bouquet in return. Then, he kissed her forehead in a gesture the angarans would understand as the affection of an older sibling. Meanwhile, Sahuna did the same with Jaal.
The bride and groom faced each other, each holding a wreath of flowers. Sarah drew a deep breath, then spoke in a voice that was surprisingly strong and calm. Her words were the ones that Avela had made her memorise earlier that morning.
“I have left the skies of the planet of which I was born, and for many long years I journeyed across the stars in order to stand beside you today.” as she spoke, she laid the wreath of flowers around Jaal’s neck, her hands careful and hesitant as she dared to touch his cheek before drawing back.
For a moment, Jaal seemed at a loss for words as he stared wide-eyed at his bride. Scott wondered if he was aroused, and immediately felt guilty for the thought. Perhaps the angaran was just nervous.
Then, Jaal raised his hands and placed his wreath of flowers around Sarah’s neck, speaking slowly and clearly as he did.
“I have waited for many years in my loneliness, aching for your presence long before I heard your name. I loved you long before I saw your face. I stand before you open and waiting, asking you to stand beside me for the rest of our days.”
Sarah blushed, even though she’d heard Liam say somethng similiar as he pretended to be Jaal for her earlier. Then, still blushing, she turned to Scott, who handed her the small flower wreath. She gave him a quick, slightly nervous smile, then turned back to Jaal who now also held a second wreath in his hands.
“I shall walk beside you wherever your path leads.” Sarah promised as she placed the wreath on Jaal’s head. It fit perfectly.
“I shall support you, whichever challenges you face.” Jaal replied, sounding as if he meant it from the depths of his being, as he placed the wreath in her hair. It slipped down a little over one eye, and he carefully pushed it back. Then, for an eternal moment, he stood very still, his fingers still resting on her cheek.
The Moshae cleared her throat, and Jaal pulled back, clearly embarrassed.
“So he has crowned his bride, and she has crowned her groom. May this union be as the flowers, strong and vibrant, fair and beautiful. Jaal, Sarah, make your vows before your people.”
Jaal fell to his knees, which Avela had explained was optional. It showed that the one kneeling was giving themselves wholly to the other. “It’s usually only warriors” Avela had explained, “it’s a way to show that they will lay down their life for their mate.”
Sarah hesitated, then stepped forward and placed her hands on each side of Jaal’s face, her slim fingers coming to rest in the folds on each side of his face.
“I give you my heart” Sarah said softly as she leaned forward, “And trust you to keep it.”
Jaal raised his hands, placing them over hers, entwining their fingers. His eyes half-closed in what Scott interpreted as pleasure.
“I give you my life, and trust you not to waste it.” he said.
“And so, it is done” the Moshae said, pride in her voice. “Jaal ama Darav, Sarah of Ryder, your hearts are one, your souls are one. May the sars shine favorably on you both.”
For a moment, all was still. Sarah hesitated, but then she made a decision. There was one part of the human wedding ceremony she wanted on her own wedding, even if she was a bit scared. So she leaned down over the kneeling man, over Jaal, and carefully pressed her lips to his in a sweet, chaste kiss.
Somewhere, someone began to sing, an angaran voice raised in words that she did not know but that felt warm and welcoming as Jaal’s lips parted under hers as the kiss deepened. More voices joined in, until every angaran - apart from the one who was kissing her - sang.
Jaal slowly stood, clasping her to his heart, deepening the kiss. And as he stole her breath away, Sarah came to a realisation.
They are singing for us.
The evening was late, and to be fair Scott was far drunker than he had any right to be. It had been so easy to drink too much, with angaran wine flowing freely and everyone so happy. Especially the groom, who had danced his bride across the square multiple times. He was always going to remember how Sarah had laughed as she danced with the man who was hers now, the man a part of him wanted to be his.
But that part was quiet now, silenced by drinks and his own will. Because he couldn’t love him anymore, mustn’t love him anymore. An old earth song came to him. If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one your with. But was he really with Gil? He had treated the other man abominably. Blown hot and cold, drawn him closer and pushed him away with the same motion. Taken selfishly what was given and given nothing back.
He’d been selfish, Scott realised as he looked down at the glass of wine he was holding. He didn’t know which number he was on, but it didn’t matter. He could see Gil in the brightly lit square, dancing, laughing, having the time of his life with a man Scott didn’t know. He didn’t need to know him; he knew his body language. He wanted to slip between them, press close to Gil and show that he was his, but he couldn’t. He wasn’t sure Gil was his.
So instead he turned and walked, alone, into the shadows. He didn’t know where he was going, or what he was going to do once he got there.
Because that was his path, to walk alone in shadows and find a way forward. Forward, forward, always forward. He was the pathfinder. And if he didn’t look back, then he hadn’t left anything behind.
But the treacherous tears still slipped unbidden down his cheeks.
Jaal’s arm was heavy around Sarah’s waist as they left the party, Sarah’s head heavy with exhaustion and impressions. She’d even had some wine, and it made her drowsy in a way she didn’t like at all. The Ayan moon shone pale and yellow somewhere above her head and the smell of the flowers in her hair were becoming too strong, too intense for her to handle. She tugged at it, but couldn’t remove it.
Heavy hands slid through her hair, undoing the tangles and removing the flower crown. Then those same hands removed the garland around her neck, and she turned to look at Jaal.
He smiled at her, she realised after a moment, and smiled back like you should.
“Sarah” he said, his voice low and soft. They hadn’t really talked to each other yet, only danced and danced and danced until she was dizzy and her feet hurt.
“Jaal” she replied, not knowing what to expect from him.
“May I hold you?” He asked, and she frowned.
“You’ve held me many times, when we danced, and you didn’t ask then. Why are you asking now?”
Jaal looked confused for a moment, cocking his head to the side.
“Because I want to hold you on the bed,” he said eventually, “without clothing.”
“Oh. You want to have sex.” That she understood, Avela had explained to her.
But Jaal shook his head.
“Only if you want to. I will not deny that seeing you in the moonlight makes me want to touch you, but I will not if my touch is unwelcome.”
Sarah felt confused. She hadn’t expected to be given a choice. She let her eyes take in the man in front of her, so alien and so familiar at the same time. Her husband. Her Jaal.
“I… I don’t know.” She admitted, reluctant. “I… I think I want to see first.”
Jaal nodded once, then he started undressing. The robe fell, and so did the trousers underneath, and his jewelry. The flower wreath and garland were put on the small table by the wall, and his clothes too. Then he removed the last of his clothing and stood before her nude, and he was nothing like what she expected.
She had seen pictures of naked angaran men, but to be faced with one in real life was different.
He had broad shoulders and a flat stomach and his penis laid flaccid against his thigh. It drew her attention; she had expected it hard. Realizing she was staring at his private parts, Sarah looked away blushing.
“You may look all you wish” he told her gently. “This is yours now. I am yours, to do with as you wish.”
“Can I… can I touch?” she asked shyly.
He laid down on the bed, spreading out as if displaying himself. IT made her self-conscious, in that she was still dressed. So she squirmed out of the blue wrap Cora had given her, and pulled the dress over her head. Then she hesitated momentarily before letting her bra and panties fall to the floor.
Jaal’s gaze turned warm and heavy. “Beautiful” he crooned, reaching out a hand to her. She went to him with slight trepidation.
“I don’t know what I’m doing” she whispered against his lips, his hands warm and strong on her back, one sliding down to cup her buttocks.
“I know” he replied, sounding kind and sure. “Try to trust me.”
“I trust you” Sarah whispered, realizing she meant it.
“Then I will teach you.” He promised.
And he did, lesson after lesson until she fell asleep exhausted in his arms shortly before the dawn came.
Jaal stroked his new wife’s mussed hair and thought of her brother. Hoping in time, he’d find a way to be friends with the man who loved him.