Disclaimer: Enterprise is the property of Paramount Pictures. Title from the song 'Walking Home' by Serenades.
Author's note: This fic was written for the March challenge on Ad Astra, 'Puppies, kittens, candy-floss and sunshine'.
Even If the Last Walls Are Crumbling Down
When Shran woke up, it took him a moment to remember where he was and why there was a pleasant warmth pressed up against his naked side. Then the events of the previous day came rushing back to him, and he rolled over and opened his eyes. A flare of happiness burned through him at the sight that met them: the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen, one of her arms curled up under her head, her long hair unbound and spread across the pillow, and her white skin seeming almost to give off a luminous glow in the dim blue light filtering in from outside. Jhamel. His wife. The words felt strange and unreal and incredible just in his mind and he wondered, with a twinge of embarrassment, if he was telepathically broadcasting his ebullience to every Aenar in the city. He couldn't help it, if he was – she had married him yesterday, and he was happier than he'd ever been.
The cover was draped in a fold across her hip and still tangled in their legs from the previous evening. They hadn't waited until their wedding night to give themselves completely to each other, but mating as a married couple for the first time had lent the proceedings something entirely new and different. She had deep wells of passion in her to match his, her outer gentleness notwithstanding. He'd seen hints of them when they'd met, but as he'd come to know and love her over the past year, those wells had opened up to him.
He leaned over to kiss the delicately blue-tinged skin at her temple, and her eyes fluttered open. "Thy'lek," she sighed happily, and he heard an echo of his name in his mind as she slipped her arms around his neck.
Shran wrapped his arms around her and pulled her to him, kissing her deeply, before he said, "Good morning."
A bright smile lit her face. "I forgot, just for a moment, that you're my husband now."
"So did I," he admitted.
He felt a tentative touch on his mind, like a sound but noiseless – a strange sensation, but he was getting used to it, especially after last night, when there had finally been no barriers between them, either physical or mental – and relaxed, letting her in. I can't imagine a better realization, she added, speaking directly in his mind.
Shran let his feelings do the talking for him, since he still wasn't very good at summoning up the necessary concentration for a non-telepath to communicate mind-to-mind. There had been a time, not all that long ago, he supposed, when he would have considered letting someone into his head, letting them speak to him and read his thoughts, to be the grossest violation of his privacy imaginable. And he still didn't like the idea in a general sense, but Jhamel had a rare gift for making him do or consider things that he would have dismissed outright before he'd met her. Having her presence in his head was just another layer stripped away between them.
Jhamel touched his face, skimming her fingers from his forehead, down his nose, to his lips. Maybe it was the closest she could get to actually seeing him, though Shran doubted it – she'd known, after all, that he was a 'blueskin' after meeting him just once, and briefly. "Are you happy?" she asked, a soft smile on her face, because she already knew the answer.
"More than I thought I could be," he replied, meaning it, despite how melodramatic it sounded. "You seem to have that effect on me, though."
Laughing softly, she nestled her head against his shoulder, and he rubbed a hand up and down her back. "That's only fair," she said. "You reminded me how to be happy again." He knew she was thinking of her brother, dead this past year, but didn't say anything, and Jhamel added, "Gareb would have liked you." There wasn't any sadness in her tone, and Shran was glad – it had never escaped his notice that without death the two of them never would have been together. Maybe that was morbid, but he preferred to see it as life-affirming. Talas would always have a place in his heart, and Jhamel would never stop missing her brother, but it helped heal the wound when something so good could come from the ashes of loss.
"I was only returning the favor," he finally said, kissing the top of her head.
Her antennae quivered with emotion and for several minutes, the two of them laid in silence together – though it wasn't exactly silence, when Jhamel's thoughts butted up against his. She laid her hand against his chest and the contrast of her white skin on his blue struck him suddenly as one of the most unlikely things that had ever happened to him. An Andorian Imperial Guardsman marrying a pacifist Aenar – his family and friends had been shocked, probably just as much as Jhamel's.
As though she'd heard what he was thinking – and he wasn't sure she hadn't – she remarked, "My family was very impressed with you last night."
"I didn't mangle my lines too badly?" he asked, smiling.
"Your Aenar was perfect."
Whether that was the truth or generosity, he was just glad that he wouldn't have to recite the oddly familiar and yet completely foreign words in the Aenar language that he'd been required to as part of the marriage ceremony again. It was funny; he'd always considered himself a natural leader, but a scripted speech was out of his comfort zone. Especially a scripted speech as ritual-laden as the one that had been required of him. It had made him acutely aware of how important this was. Jhamel and he were the first Aenar and Andorian to wed in a long, long time. Perhaps ever. He was an ambassador to these people, like it or not.
"I've been practicing it for weeks," Shran said. "I could probably recite it in my sleep."
With a giggle, she said, "I'd like to hear that."
"And now you'll have ample opportunity." Tangling his fingers in her hair, he said in an amused tone, "I'm glad I finally impressed your parents, but somehow I doubt that your cousin's mind was changed about me."
Jhamel's head shot up, her antennae rising to attention. "If she said anything to you last night—"
"Nothing new," he said with a chuckle. "Just that I'm too old for you." And too Andorian, but he didn't say that out loud.
It was still hard to remember that just because he didn't say something out loud didn't mean it wouldn't be overheard. That's not true, Jhamel said to him, her mental voice sounding upset. And it isn't what everyone else thinks.
"Which part?" he asked, smiling to allay the agitation that he'd inadvertently caused. "Because I am too old for you."
"You didn't seem too old last night," she said without the faintest blush of blue rising to her face – partly, he could tell, because she was irritated by her cousin's opinions.
That made him laugh, which made some of the annoyance go out of her posture and antennae. A wan smile passed over her face, and she said, "My cousin's heart is often in the right place, but she lets narrowness get the better of her sometimes."
"Your cousin isn't the only one who's thinking along those lines," Shran said. "And I appreciate that she's brave enough to say it to me. I just need to prove that I'm worthy of you." He paused, then added, "Though I'm still not entirely convinced of that myself."
She held very still for a moment, and then she wrapped her arms tightly around his neck. "You're a good man, Thy'lek Shran," she murmured. "Maybe the best man I've ever met."
"That's only because you haven't met very many, living here."
Raising her face to his, so that he was looking directly into her cloudy blue eyes, she said, "That doesn't change the fact that the most kind and honorable man that I've ever known is an Andorian. And anyone who disagrees will come to see that they're wrong."
He kept one arm around her but moved the other to put a hand on her face, his fingers just brushing her hair. "Jhamel," he said.
"I love you."
Her smile was simultaneously soft and radiant. "I love you too, Thy'lek." There was a jumbled rush of feelings and images in his head, all from her perspective; the two of them, from the moment they'd met, with him bleeding and crippled on the icy ground, to the first time he'd held her in his arms on the Enterprise, through this past year that they'd grown closer and closer, in her visits to his home in Andoria's capital city and his to her home in the Northern Wastes; the warm, sunny day he'd brought her to the surface and held her hand so she wouldn't slip in the slush; the morning she'd led him deep into the caves around the Aenar compound, to a cavern that was lit from above by light shining through the clearest ice he'd ever seen. The day that he'd finally taken her in his arms and kissed her and allowed her into his mind. The moment they'd become bonded as husband and wife the previous night, her ethereal beauty all but overwhelming him and a smile on her face that was meant only for him.
And with her feelings flooding through him, he kissed her fiercely, saying with his arms and hands and lips what he couldn't yet with his mind: that he would never stop trying to be worthy of her, that if he was a good man it was because she made him better, and that he would love her until Andoria's ice melted and boiled away – or, at the very least, until he really was an old man, passing into the next life with his feelings for her as intact and unbreakable as they were on this morning.