Oh man oh man, you guys. I am OVERJOYED to talk about this! <3
Jaal’s first “oh, damn” moment came during the initial excursions on Havarl. He, Vetra, and Gemma had been slogging through some dense plant growth for hours when he spotted a shortcut from his childhood. It involved a lot of climbing, and Vetra gave him a (gentle) hard time about it, but what Jaal remembers is Gemma staring up the incline, a little frown on her still-strange face. When he asked her what she was doing, she said “I’m trying to figure out if I can do it in four boosts, or three”. Then she grinned at him, and said “I bet three,” and took off. He watched her jet to the first outcropping of rock, catch it, and leverage herself up, and then keep going.
She made it in three, and laughed when she reached the top.
He lost his handhold just before he reached her, the rock crumbling under his hand, but Gemma was already there, so fast he never even knew she had moved, and she had her hand locked around his wrist before he could yell for help. And to this day, he remembers the jolt that went through him at the contact, and how her grip did not falter – and how bright her eyes were as she pulled him up. Oh, he thought. This feels familiar.
No, he added, only to himself, when Gemma – this alien woman – grinned up at him, this feels good.
Gemma’s moment came later; it was seeing him on Aya, after they rescued the Moshae. She found him on a balcony, looking out over a forest so green it hurt her eyes. For the first time since she woke up, she had a moment to pause, and breathe, and not worry about getting attacked, and she was happy to just bask in the sunlight and the rustle of wind through the leaves with a friend.
She would have been content to stay quiet – Jaal didn’t owe her conversation after all her prodding back on the Tempest and in the Nomad – but he started pointing out the farms where he had worked as a teenager, his favorite place to watch the sunset, the races he and his siblings used to run near that river to the west – and she felt every knot in her spine coming undone.
He spoke with so much love for everything around him, and Gemma was so tired and lonely and hating being either of those things that she started crying. She’d always been one for a good stress-relief cry, but this was exhaustion, and longing for home, and grief, and the pressure of knowing everything depended on her.
She tried to keep quiet about it – not really good diplomacy to start bawling in public, especially if you were the damn Pathfinder – but when Jaal noticed, he just put his arm around her shoulders and told her no one would shame her for this, of all things.
Gemma tried to make a joke – cover my back for a few minutes till I stop looking like a boiled tomato, okay? – but he was looking at her so sincerely, so gently, that she just nodded and maybe – maybe – leaned into him a little. Jaal was alien, half his people wanted to kill her, and she didn’t really blame them – but he was warm, and solid, and he didn’t let go till her tears were done.