Jaal appreciated the work Liam did with the Pathfinder. He just wished it could be done closer to him. The hours Liam was gone were always the longest for Jaal. The ship seemed too quiet without his needling and joviality, and Jaal's work was less enjoyable without his charming conversation. The nights Liam was away were cold and restless, his arms empty and his breathing uninterrupted by a faceful of hair. He'd unconsciously become attuned to Liam's deep breathing, and the lack of it at night was unsettling, making it difficult to sleep.
He checked his comm again. Still nothing. With a sigh, he busied himself working again, keeping an ear out for an announcement of the Pathfinder team's return.
"Coming here was a mistake." Liam banged his fist on the mattress, "I was an idiot to think I'd find a place here. I should never have left home." Frowning, Jaal set his datapad aside.
"So, meeting me? That was a mistake?" he asked, resting a hand on Liam's arm. Liam jolted.
"No!" he exclaimed, "No, meeting you was... it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me." The anger was gone as quickly as it came, leaving Liam looking ashamed, "Its just... what do I do when I'm not useful anymore? Where do I even belong?"
"You belong right here." Jaal pulled him close, resting his chin on his head, "Right here in my arms." Liam buried his face into his chest, murmuring a reluctant agreement.
Jaal thought he was totally in control, with Liam spread out beautifully beneath him, pupils blown and lips parted, hair messy and face flushed. Then Liam intercepted the hand tracing his face, taking one of Jaal's fingers into his mouth, and Jaal choked a little. That alien tongue swirled sensually around his fingers, those blunt teeth teased at his skin, those dark eyes watched his reaction with amusement and lust.
Jaal couldn't look away, couldn't take his eyes off Liam's lips. Liam took his fingers deeper into his mouth, and Jaal moaned helplessly, realizing he'd never been in control. With Liam's entrancing eyes on him, he didn't mind a bit.
"Take the human to the exhalation chamber." the kett said, standing imperiously over Liam's prone figure, "It will join the other chosen."
That snapped Jaal out of his concussed stupor. He scrambled to his feet from where he'd fallen, fighting off the wave of dizziness and pushing the pain aside. A glance showed him that Liam was still alive, simply unconscious. The two kett stared impassively at him, disdain on their faces.
"Take the human. I'll deal with the angara." one of them ordered the other, clearly expecting an easy fight. It overestimated it's ability. It didn't understand what love felt like, what it did to a person. It didn't know the lengths Jaal would go to to keep Liam safe.
He would die before he saw his tavetaan fall into kett hands.
"You will not take him!" he snarled, pain forgotten as he at the kett with a furious battle cry, letting white-hot fury overtake him.
A human voice crooned a slow, soulful tune from the terminal as Liam worked. His hands drifted over the console, working more for fun than necessity. Jaal entered quietly, glancing questioningly at the source of the foreign music.
"It's Billie Holiday. 1950s, I'm pretty sure." Liam explained as if that would mean something to Jaal, "Great era for music." Jaal came up behind him and slipped his arms around Liam's waist, humming an indulgent agreement. With a grin, Liam turned in his embrace, his arms twined around his shoulders, and with the music playing and the emptiness of the room it was all too easy to fall into an easy, swaying rhythm with him.
"The 1950s also produced some classic horror movies." Liam offered softly, looking up at him with a hopeful smile, "The Fly, The Blob, Invasion of The Body Snatchers, The Creature from the Black Lagoon. If you like..."
"Yes." Jaal agreed without hesitation, earning himself a chuckle. They swayed together, the slow music filling the room. Liam hummed along softly, his lilting voice far more appealing than all the music in the universe.
Liam's face had taken on a sickly paleness, sweat drenching his brow even as he shivered. He looked like death warmed over, and Jaal's heart clenched just looking at him. Only the heart monitor and Liam's rattling breaths let him know the human was alive.
"It's been going around the Nexus." Lexi had said, "It's a common human illness that mutated, but not lethally. He'll pull through." He trusted her, but it was hard to see Liam so fragile, so vulnerable. His breaths were rapid and weak, his brows drawn, his eyes moving rapidly behind his eyelids as if trapped in a bad dream.
Jaal took his hand. It was all he could do.
Liam lay before him, hands curled reverently around his thighs and mouth working wonders on Jaal's self control. Jaal distantly thought he should thank Peebee, since it was her comment about Jaal's thighs that led to where they were now.
"Listen. Your thighs? A gift from God." Liam kissed one to emphasize, "It's totally unfair, and honestly should be illegal."
"Oh. Want me to go turn myself in?" Jaal asked with false innocence. Liam's grip tightened in gentle warning.
"You and your gorgeously huge thighs aren't going anywhere tonight." he grinned, eyes dark as he nipped at Jaal's hipbone, "Remember, I was a cop myself. I'm sure I can handle you."
"What's wrong, darling one?" Jaal asks with concern, noticing Liam's foul mood the moment he walked in, "Has someone upset you? Are you hurt?"
"Nothing." Liam ran an agitated hand through his hair, "Nothing, its just-nothing. I'm fine."
"Liam." Jaal turned his chin to look at him, "I am here for you. Please, tell me what's wrong." Liam looked like he was going to refuse again, but he seemed to decide against it, exhaling angrily.
"I'm homesick." he admitted, looking away like he felt ashamed, "I miss the Milky Way. And Earth. London. Everyone keeps telling me it's not home anymore, that this is home now, but that's not right. We can't just forget where we came from. Earth will always be home to me no matter where I go, no matter how hard I try to convince myself that this is home now."
Jaal's heart ached for him. He remembered the wistfulness on Kallo's face when he talked about his Sur'kesh. The way Suvi's face lit up when asked about Ireland. How Drack spoke of Tuchanka with a mixture of derision and pride. Brave as they were, they were all so far from home.
Aya had always been his home. This was something he could not help with. All he could do was open his arms and let Liam find solace in him.
"Your feet are just fantastic." Liam said out of the blue.
"Um... thank you?" Jaal blinked.
"Sorry, didn't mean to be weird." Liam rubbed the back of his neck, "I just think they're neat. Kinda remind me of monkey's feet."
"I don't know what a monkey is." Jaal reminded him with a chuckle.
"Little primates with graspy feet. Humans evolved from them." Liam said, "They kinda look like pyjaks, but more humanoid. I'll show you pictures."
"I can't wait." Jaal laughed, "And I'm glad you like my feet. I like yours as well. They are... interesting. Weird, but interesting."
"I'm sorry." Liam said once they were away from the bar, his grip falling from Jaal's arm, "I... shit, I acted like an arse. I shouldn't have gotten jealous like that, I just-I saw that man all over you and I just-"
Jaal's chuckle caught Liam by surprise, as did the firm yet gentle hands that pushed him against the wall.
"Do you think I would not act the same way were someone to lay hands on you?" Jaal asked lowly, gripping Liam's waist and nosing at his temple, "Although, I do not believe my response would be as tame as yours."
"Well," Liam smiled, the tension in his chest loosening, "You sure know how to ease a guy's mind."
"I can ease more than that." Jaal murmured, "Let's return to the Tempest so I can show you how very much yours I am."
"I'm Liam." Liam introduced, shaking hands with the new requisition officer, "And this is my mate, Jaal." Jaal started, staring at Liam with open awe, pupils dilating at Liam's use of the word 'mate.' For Liam, who so valued his privacy, to be so open about their relationship, and with a stranger no less. It brought a joyous smile to Jaal's face.
"Yes," he rumbled happily, extending his hand, "I am his mate."
It wasn't until later Jaal would learn that the word 'mate' simply meant 'friend' where Liam came from. At first, he kicked himself for being so presumptuous. But his heart sang when he realized Liam hadn't denied Jaal's interpretation.
"That pyjak is a menace." Gil muttered, "Keep it out of engineering."
"You're a monster. I love this little guy." Liam argued, chuckling as the pyjak chittered and rubbed against his leg, "I swear if anything ever happened to him, I'd kill everyone on this ship and then myself."
As if it heard him and desired carnage, the pyjak stumbled, then flopped sideways dramatically, its tongue lolling out. Jaal laughed as Liam screamed dramatically, voice high as he fell to his knees, scooping the creature up.
"Stay with me, buddy! Stay strong!" he yelped, doing a marvelous job of containing his laughter. Gil and Jaal couldn't say the same, both in various states of cracking up, unhelped by the pyjak's strategically timed pathetic death rattle.
"Gil, help!" Liam cradled the comically limp pyjak, his voice cracking with restrained laughter, "Call 999!"
"I'm sorry, Liam, the ambulance won't get here in time." Gil laughed, nearly bent over from the force of the laughs.
"Tell them the pyjak's white!" Liam cried.
It was Peebee's idea. Jaal figured he should have known better than to listen to ideas from her.
At her urging, he'd hidden in a storage closet, waiting for Liam to pass. When he did, Jaal jumped out with a playful yell, not expecting the shout and the punch that followed. He went down with a grunt of pain, his back meeting the floor and pain blooming in his jaw.
"Jaal!" Liam yelped, hurrying to help him up, "You can't just jump out at people like that, you'll get knocked the fuck out!"
"So I see." Jaal rubbed his jaw, accepting Liam's help, "I apologize."
"No no, it's my fault for punching you." Liam said, cupping his jaw to check for damage.
"No no, it's my fault for frightening you." Jaal insisted seriously, catching his hand and holding it between his.
"No, I shouldn't have-"
"No, I should not have-"
Peebee groaned loudly.
"I love the way you say my name." Liam admits, his hands tracing patterns on Jaal's bare arms, "Liam. Like it's something beautiful."
"Your name is beautiful." Jaal said, his head resting on Liam's chest, "Was that not abundantly obvious the last twelve times I've told you?"
"Maybe it's just the accent, then, that makes it sound so nice when you say it." Liam laughed, leaning down to kiss his head.
"You are one to talk about lovely accents." Jaal rumbled happily, tilting his head up for a proper kiss, "I always thought my name unremarkable until it fell from your perfect lips."
"Okay, big guy" Liam laughed, lacing their fingers together, "Think you can out-sweet talk me, huh?"
"I know I can." Jaal happily accepted the challenge.
Jaal was yanked from the water with a gasp, chest heaving as he took in gulps of precious air. His rescuer dragged him to shore, hauling him out of the water and collapsing at his side.
"I've got you." Liam was shaking, clutching Jaal like a lifeline, "I've got you. You're safe. I've got you." He was soaked. They both were. Liam's hair was a dripping mess, his eyes wide with something terribly close to fear.
"You saved me." Jaal found his hand and gripped it tight, "Thank you."
"Don't ever do that again, yeah?" Liam laughed, even if it was a little strained, "Damn near gave me a heart attack."
"I will try to be blasted somewhere less wet next time there's an explosion." Jaal pulled him close, letting Liam's scent calm his racing heart, letting Liam hold him and ease both of their fears.
The blankets were warm, but Liam was warmer. Wrapped dizzyingly in Liam's scent, surrounded by him in every way, Jaal felt blissful. Liam sighed into his mouth, arms twined around Jaal's shoulders, warm skin pressed to his. Jaal couldn't get enough of him. Groaning slightly, he pressed his hand at the small of Liam's back, emitting a bioelectric pulse that meant loving, content, adoring, more. Liam jolted, a pained cry tearing from his throat as his body tensed painfully. Jaal's blood ran cold, and he tore himself away from the human as fast as he could.
"Liam!" he said, stomach twisting, "I-I'm sorry! I didn't think-I thought that-I... Stars, I'm..." He felt a terrible coldness creep into his heart. He had hurt Liam. Shocked him. Stars above, had the pulse been stronger he could have...
"It's fine." Liam said roughly, though his hands were shaking, "It's fine. It was a mistake, I forgive you." He shifted forward, drawing Jaal close again, and it took all of Jaal's courage to allow it, to let Liam touch him.
"I'm fine." Liam murmured, cradling his face, "This is a learning experience for both of us, yeah?"
Jaal kissed his trembling hands in fervent apology, dedicating the rest of the night to earning Liam's forgiveness.
"Jaal." Liam looked nervous, eyes fixed on a spot behind Jaal as he wrung his hands, "If I... Would you... That is to say, If I were to ask..."
"Liam." Jaal put a hand on his shoulder, smiling reassuringly, "Never be afraid to talk to me. I would not spurn you for anything." Liam nodded, Jaal's touch seeming to give him some modicum of courage.
"If I were to ask..." Liam exhaled sharply, "Ah bollocks. What I'm trying to ask is, will you marry me?" Jaal blinked, speechless, unable to answer for several seconds. Liam shuffled uncomfortably, his expression visibly falling with each second Jaal remained silent.
"I... It's fine if you don't-whoah!" He was interrupted as Jaal picked him up by the waist, spinning him around with a joyous laugh before putting him down.
"Did you think even for a moment that my answer would be no?" he asked, electricity thrumming across his skin, a brilliant smile stretched across his face as he gazed down at Liam with open adoration.
"I guess not." Liam laughed, relaxing as Jaal drew him in for a euphoric kiss.
"I trust you, Jaal." Liam said, looking up at him with earnest eyes, "I wouldn't have suggested this otherwise." Liam's arms were tied behind his back, Jaal's hands resting firmly on his waist. Kneeling over him, the angara managed to look both excited and nervous at the same time.
"Do you remember the safeword?" Jaal asked for the ninth time. Liam chuckled, leaning up to kiss him.
"Kadara." he answered, "Don't worry. I won't let you make me uncomfortable. C'mere." Jaal nodded again, pressing Liam gently into the pillows, thumb massaging his shoulders and legs gently nudging his thighs apart. He was gentle, exceedingly so, and Liam soon pulled away to kiss up Jaal's jaw.
"I trust you." he reiterated, rolling his hips up into Jaal's, "Understand?" Jaal nodded more confidently this time, bringing his mouth to Liam's collarbone and starting work on the first of many marks.
Liam was in the middle of an apparently entertaining story when Jaal passed, and he couldn't help but linger in the doorway to listen.
"So I yell down at them 'What's your bleedin' damage!? It's three in the fucking morning!' and these little shits have the nerve to flip me off." The table erupted into laughter, the sound filling the room and filling Jaal with contentment. Liam's voice rose above the others.
"I can only imagine what the neighbors thought." he snorted loudly, trying to continue his story, "Two teens fucking on a blaring car, and me, a shirtless muscular black guy, leaning out a window three stories up yelling 'Oi, sod off! I'm a bloody cop, get off my car!"
"'Sod off, I'm a bloody cop', how very British of you." Cora laughed. Liam looked at her as solemnly as he could manage.
"Then I guess I should tell you, I am British." he said, a smile cracking despite his best efforts, "I'm so sorry for keeping this from you guys for so long."
"Liam, how could you?" Ryder cried dramatically, "I thought we told each other everything! Next you'll be telling me Drack's krogan! Or Kallo's pink!"
"I'm pink!?" Kallo yelped. Chuckling, Jaal moved on, Liam's booming laughter lingering in his mind like the smile on his face.
"London." Liam said, gazing fondly at the photos, "Home."
"It is... very urban." Jaal observed, taking in the alien architecture, the tall brown buildings and winding streets that somehow seemed to fit Liam perfectly, "The buildings closely resemble boxes. And that clock is unreasonably large."
"Well, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, yeah?" Liam chuckled, "Each country had a different sort of architecture. You should see the buildings they got in China. Ooh, you'd like Red Square in Russia. And Peru has some incredible old cities. Egypt's pyramids, Japan's temples, the Easter Island heads. I think the Sydney Opera House kinda resembles angara architecture..."
Jaal made a mental note to study more of Liam's home at a later date. For now, he was content to listen to Liam talk about it.
"Are you... purring?" Liam asked incredulously, pausing in his rubbing at Jaal's scalp. Jaal shifted discontentedly, pressing his head into Liam's palm like an attention-starved cat.
"Yes." he replied, nestling a little further into Liam's embrace, "Is that strange to you?"
"It's adorable." Liam chuckled, resuming his ministrations, "You're like a kitten. Shall I scratch you behind the ears?"
"Is that a reference to something?" Jaal asked, eyelids fluttering at Liam's touch.
"Holy shit, that's right, you've never seen a cat before. Hold on, I'm getting my datapad. Get ready to spend the next hour looking at cat pictures."
Liam's throat frightened Jaal. To him it was a thin stalk with a head balanced precariously on it, nothing to protect it, nothing to assist with the weight of the head. It would be so easy to decapitate a human, so easy to cut the thin skin, to wrap a hand around it and crush the unprotected bones. Liam's vulnerable throat made appearances in as many of Jaal's nightmares as it did wet dreams.
"You're doing that thing again." Liam pointed out even as he tilted his head back to allow Jaal better access, "Where you fixate on my neck like it's gonna snap or something."
"I'm protecting it." Jaal hummed, a thumb coming to rest lightly just below his adam's apple, "Such a vulnerable throat needs to be kept safe. Especially when it's owner is so reckless."
"You're so weird." Liam chuckled, smiling as Jaal pressed his lips to his throat once more.
It was Liam's eyes that had first caught Jaal's attention, and his eyes that still captivated him to this day. On most days, those warm brown eyes were the first thing he saw in the morning and the last thing he saw before going to sleep. They gave him courage in the darkest of times. Just the thought of them gave Jaal the strength to fight against all the odds, knowing the owner of those eyes was waiting for him with a joke and a warm embrace.
"You have the nicest eyes." Liam murmured to him, hands on his face and beautiful eyes looking into his, "The loveliest eyes in the galaxy."
He had no idea how backward he had it, but Jaal would let it slide for now.
Jaal's friends had accused him of only joining the Tempest crew "to fuck an alien." It wasn't true, but now with both of them half clothed and Liam sitting comfortably in Jaal's lap, he had to laugh at how funny fate could be. His hands roamed Liam's body as he admired the flat planes of dark skin, the strange ridged muscles on his stomach, the thickness of his torso. The way his collarbone protruded only slightly, so unlike the protective structure of angaran collarbones, just enough to be enticing.
And his hair. The lovely brown mass of marvelous softness that tantalized Jaal. He looked to Liam for permission, and when he got it he wasted no time in twining his hands in it, reveling in the texture, barely resisting the urge to bury his face in it. Liam laughed good naturedly, his hands doing some exploring of his own. As Jaal reluctantly turned his attention away from the wonderful hair, Liam's hand came up to touch his face. Jaal intercepted it on a whim, smiling to assuage Liam's confused expression. Taking the hand between his, he examined it closely, taking in the odd shape of the palm, the way each finger had an individually different length. The fact that he had five fingers instead of three.
It was all so alien. It was all so beautiful. Liam was beautiful.
Unable to resist, he released the hand in favor of bringing his mouth to Liam's deceptively thin throat, and one taste of Liam's skin was all it took to make Jaal an addict.
Jaal flinched again, his grip on Liam's arm tightening as another screaming, half-naked human teenager died on the screen.
"I fail to see the amusement in watching people be murdered." Jaal turned his face into Liam's shoulder for the seventh time, knowing morbid fascination would soon force him to look again, "Do you not see enough death in your lives?"
"It's not about watching people die." Liam chuckled, resting his head on Jaal's, "It's about putting on something mindless so you can cuddle with your boyfriend."
"So this is considered romantic by humans?" Jaal asked incredulously, shuddering at the spray of blood on screen.
"Yup." Liam laughed, "I still can't believe you guys don't have horror vids. You poor, deprived-Ooh, this is the scene with the razor wire! Love this scene."
Jaal groaned, hiding his face in Liam's shoulder again as the screaming started anew.
"You grow too close to these aliens, Jaal Ama Darav." Akksul glared pointedly at Liam, nose wrinkling when Jaal stepped protectively in front of him, "Disgustingly close."
"At least I know love, Akksul, which is more than I can say for you." Jaal retaliated, "My zealotry is of the romantic kind, not the hateful."
"The implication that you worship this creature is sickening." Akksul said disdainfully. Liam's hand flexed on his gun, but Jaal subtly gestured for him to be still.
"Worship his body, perhaps." Jaal said smoothly. Liam snorted loudly, his laughter surprisingly echoed by several of Akksul's Roekar. Akksul scowled at them, but Jaal seemed pleased by the response.
"I love you, Jaal." Liam giggled, thumping his back.
"And I you, darling one." Jaal smiled at him, nothing but love in his eyes.
Akksul made a sound of disgust.