[[Summary: Based on a conversation I triggered late in the game. Jaal surprises Ryder with an Earth treat she never thought she would eat again. As always, comments are very, very appreciated, and suggestions for future story ideas are welcome.
Word count: ~1300
Pairing: Ryder x Jaal
“It smells like someone bathed a sewer in dust and called it a day. Why are we on Kadara anyway?” The semi-lawless planet had to rank up near the top of Jaal’s least favorite places, making his insistence that they pay a visit all the more baffling. Though they hadn’t been together long, comparatively speaking, Wren Ryder actually preferred to leave Jaal on the Tempest rather than listen to him complain about how unpleasant it all was. To be fair, he had a point- Kadara had a charm best described as ‘rough,’ and for an Angara used to jungle worlds and lush cities, it had none whatsoever. His kind didn’t frequent it too often, though the number of Angara willing to stretch out their realm of experiences grew by the day.
“It is a surprise. It will make your jaw drop. Not literally. That is an idiom.” Sounding more proud of himself than he ought to be, Jaal carefully guided Ryder through what felt like the market area under her feet, across ground that mercifully sloped gently enough that she didn’t trip and fall on her ass.
“I know it’s an idiom, Jaal.” At least this time she kept the exasperation from her tone. It wasn’t Jaal’s fault that human speech was so complex, and that at least three quarters of their phrases simply didn’t translate into Angaran at all. “And I’m already surprised we’re even here in the first place.”
Finally, his gloved hands dropped from her face, though the bright light of the dock city sent Ryder into blinking furiously for a few seconds until the world finally settled into shapes she could understand. “You took me to… a market stall?” It was the same salarian she had bought popcorn from, all those weeks ago, for the movie night. He did tend to carry interesting things, but last she heard he didn’t have anything particularly exciting or novel. “Okay, I’m stumped.”
“Close your eyes again, just for a second.” With a huff, Ryder did so, curious enough that she was willing to play along for the time being. “And now you may open them.”
Another burst of dazzling, dust-dappled light. Still facing the stall, something new had been added to the picture, something Ryder had never expected to see again, despite the rumors that had passed her way just a few weeks before.
In a single glass bowl, cut and pretty in the sunshine, lay a perfect scoop of chocolate ice cream, a single spoon stuck in it. It was incongruous, this human treat served in a stall staffed by a Salarian, on a planet that held only the loosest of ties to humanity in general, and with an Angara by her side. It was so perfect that it looked almost fake, except that she could see where it had already started to melt, dropping and forming a thick layer at the bottom that she had called ‘ice cream soup’ when she was a child, and had insisted on eating whenever she was sick. “This is for me?” Not the most intelligent statement, but she was rendered blinking and uncharacteristically silent.
“It is good? It is actually the human ‘iced cream’?” Jaal drew out the syllables in the last words, his accent providing a lilt and roll that was so utterly foreign that it felt perfect.
With what could only be described as a squeal, Ryder turned and flew at him, arms around his neck and squeezing him as tightly as she could manage. “Jaal, this is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful things I have seen in this galaxy so far. It’s perfect.” She released him equally quickly, picking up the bowl and taking that first blissful bite, a burst of flavor that took her six hundred years into the past, to sitting around a table with Scott and debating the finer merit of one of their favorite vids, to nights with friends, to a Prothean dig that ended in a celebration crowned with an unexpected ice cream sundae bar, shipped in with great expensive from the Citadel. How much had this even cost Jaal? She didn’t want to think about it; instead, she closed her eyes and just surrendered herself to something she never thought she would get to experience again. It was perfectly cold, but not so cold that it gave her a brain freeze. Perfect.
“You have to try some, Jaal. Please.” Though she wanted to save every precious bite for herself, she turned and offered him the treat, smiling broadly up at him, feeling him smile back. He seemed surprised by the force of her emotion, but hardly displeased.
“I do not know if I can eat this, dearest one, but I will try.” Cautiously, he took the spoon into his mouth, taking the smallest bite possible and holding it there, clearly unsure if he was supposed to let it melt or chew it or let it slide down his throat as is. “It is… interesting,” he finally concluded. “Refreshing,” he added after a beat, as if it was surprising that something cool would taste so good in hot weather. “But the rest is for you.”
Trying not to snatch it back too eagerly, Ryder finished those last few spoonfuls faster than she had taken her first, a need to eat it before it melted winning out over luxuriating in the bliss of flavor. “I can’t thank you enough for this. Seriously. This is… incredible.” Words weren’t sufficient to explain what this meant to her, but words were all she had, even if she wasn’t the best with them.
“I told you that you would express your emotions better. Perhaps there is more Angara in you than I thought.” A second later, Jaal blinked, puzzled at Ryder’s sudden, explosive laughter, attracting attention until she managed to pull herself back together. “What did I say? Was it a human idiom?”
“No, just phrasing and… I’ll explain it later. Not here.” Back on the Tempest, maybe. Or better yet, she could have Liam explain it, if only for the joy of seeing how uncomfortable she could make the two. Friendship was all about how much you could make them blush, after all.
Jaal’s hand reached up to brush against her face, cupping it gently until a single finger just barely wiped against her lips, a moment of fleeting touch before it returned to caressing the rather prominent line of her jaw. “You ate that rather quickly. There is still some on your face.” He laughed then, a deep, bass sound that never failed to make her heart thump and make her skin feel electrified, though that could have just of easily been from him. He controlled it well, but the pulses could be stronger during moments of heightened emotions, and suddenly Ryder was most definitely NOT thinking of her childhood.
“Luckily, I can clean that up,” Jaal continued, and then he leaned forward and their lips met, Ryder’s arms around his shoulders and his around her waist as they leaned together. She had gotten better about being so self-conscious, but a whoop from a nearby Turian alerted them and they broke apart, Ryder blushing red and Jaal still laughing, their eyes not leaving each other.
“So when do I get ice cream again?” Ryder finally said, and then laughed as Jall groaned and rolled his eyes as much as Angaran physiology would allow.
“I am taking you back to the ship for a full cleanup- there is some of the iced cream on your shirt as well,” and Ryder found she couldn’t argue with that.