The space doorbell buzzed.
There was silence for a bit and Kolyat hoped that that meant that no one was home. Looking over his shoulder, he saw that his patrol partner was having a lot more luck with the tenants across the street. He chalked it up to the fact that the salarian was at least wearing some clothes. Lucky bastard.
This entire farce was an awful idea; something evil concocted last minute by both C-Sect's PR and HR teams. It was supposed to be some kind of new funding effort. What it really was, was bullshit.
His mind wandered around this morning's memories, and it wasn't until he heard a shout from inside the apartment that he realised he'd left his finger on the buzzer.
“I'm coming, I'm coming! Hold your horses, for goodness sake...”
The voice trailed off and there was the sound of the holo-lock being deactivated. Kolyat had just enough time to wonder what a 'horse' was before he was face to face with a middle aged woman. She had greying hair and lines around her mouth that meant she'd smiled a lot in her youth. Or maybe she'd just been born like that – Kolyat didn't know; he wasn't big on humans. To be fair though, he wasn't big on much while dressed like this.
The woman didn't speak immediately and blinked once, obviously surprised. Kolyat was acutely aware of how she flicked her eyes down his body before quickly focusing on his face again. He was just opening his mouth to start his practised pitch when she spoke first.
“... You must be one of Oriana's school friends,” she said, sounding uncertain. “Hold on a sec, I'll go get her.”
The human disappeared and Kolyat heard her footsteps retreating into the house. He fidgeted uncomfortably as he was forced to wait. Gods this was so stupid.
Inside the house, there was a knock on Oriana's door before it was opened by her mother.
“Mom!” the girl cried, hastily changing tabs away from the chat session she'd been running. “I told you to knock first! And I'm doing homework.”
“Honey,” the woman said, giving her daughter an unimpressed look, “I did knock. And you've got a friend at the door.”
Oriana got up and followed her mother asking, “What? Who is it? I didn't think anyone was coming over today.”
Her mother shrugged, “Don't know Muffin, some blue lizard boy.”
The teenager blushed and cast a quick glance to their front door. “Mom!” she hissed, “What if he hears you?!”
The woman laughed and waved a hand, “Don't worry about it, I closed the door. And besides, I checked. Didn't see any ears.” There was a twinkle in her eye when she added, “And just wait till you see what he's wearing.”
Oriana rolled her eyes but nonetheless went to see what the big deal was, allowing her mother to return to the living room and finish reading whatever articles it was uncool parents looked at on the extranet.
Opening the door she was greeted with a whole lot of teal skin, a pair of small green pants, a ridiculously cute belled collar, and a green and red elf hat sitting jauntily on top of an alien face - wearing an expression of what might have been impatience.
Suddenly Oriana was overcome with a very acute pang of regret at having left her omnitool in her room. The compelling need to take a photo and send it to all of her friends was almost crippling. She'd never seen an alien like this before and had no idea why he dressed like he belonged in a really low budget Christmas porno.
“Uh, can I help you?” she asked tentatively, having trouble keeping her eyes on his face.
And while Kolyat's instinctual response was, 'I don't know, can you?' he ended up practising the disciplined art of self-censorship instead. Clearing his throat, he said, “Hi, I'm with C-Sec and we're hosting another charity function. This season's theme is 'Yuletide Cheer' and I was wondering if you'd be interested in buying tickets to the event? Your donation would be greatly appreciated and will go towards funding our acquisitions of -”
Oriana cut his monotonous pitch short with a wave of her perfectly manicured hand. She had more important things to talk about.
“You're not too great at this whole marketing thing are you?”
The young man tried not to frown at her. Sure he might not have been as enthusiastic about the canvasing as some of his co-workers, but most of them weren't forced to wear these tiny costumes. Well okay, aside from the asari, but still, that hardly counted.
“Listen,” he said. “If you buy today you get entered in for a prize and everything.”
“Are you even a real C-Sec officer?”
“Yes,” he lied, before adding a much more honest, “Almost. I've got a couple months of training left. Now do you want a ticket or not?”
While she found the guy's attitude a little stiff, it was still kind of endearing all the same. Maybe it was the jingle-bell choker, maybe not, but Oriana felt compelled to humour him. Leaning against her door frame she asked, “So what is this, some kind of newbie hazing ritual?”
“No,” the drell replied with a sigh before pointing his thumb over his shoulder to where the salarian – now three houses ahead – was cheerfully greeting a new set of humans. “Everyone has to 'get in character' or 'in spirit' or whatever. There's a lot of apartments in this neighbourhood and we're expected to hit them all.”
“Is he holding a menorah?” She asked, squinting at the salarian who was waving the candlestick around exuberantly. “And... is that a hockey puck \ tied to his forehead?”
Kolyat rubbed the back of his neck and was surprised he still had the capacity to feel even more embarrassed. “Yeah,” he said awkwardly, “I don't even know what he's carrying around, but he said he'd done his own research.”
Oriana snorted. “So how come he's not modelling a pair of green shorts too? ” she pressed.
“First, why would you even want to see a salarian in less clothing? And second, we ... didn't have any costumes in their size. Everything was too big. Trust me, they lucked out. But, about those tickets,” he prompted hopefully, “I'll give you a deal if you buy two.”
“What's going to happen at the event, is it some kind of social, or like the annual charity ball?”
“Do you know what an 'elf auction' is? Because it's going to be one of those.” He hoped that the phenomenon was human thing, because he really didn't want to have to explain it. Back at the station, Bailey had had a hard enough time as it was; it had sounded too much like slavery to a couple of men.
Wherever the tradition came from, it seemed like the young woman was familiar enough not to ask him to elaborate. Or maybe she just didn't want to look stupid; he didn't care. Either way he was grateful. Up until her next question, of course.
“Are you going to participate?”
He laughed dryly, saying, “Gods I hope not.” Kolyat failed to mention that Bailey had said he'd call them even on the remaining community service if he did.
Out of the blue, Oriana asked, “Hey, this might sound rude or something but, um, what exactly are you?”
“I'm fantastic,” the older boy deadpanned. He was used to the question by now, but he really should have seen it coming. Drell were a pretty rare sight on the Citadel, and this neighbourhood was almost exclusively human.
“No, seriously,” she said, looking at him harder than he felt comfortable with. “I've never seen anyone like you. What's your species?” He blinked both eyelids.
Inwardly Oriana winced. That came out a lot like she'd just asked him for his sign.
Kolyat sighed, and it sounded a little too dramatic. “I'll tell you if you buy a ticket,” he said finally.
The young woman laughed. “You drive a hard bargain,” she said using a term she'd picked up from her father, “but I was going to anyway. It sounds like fun.”
“For you maybe,” he mumbled. If she heard him she didn't say anything, only smiled a little wider.
They did the transaction, and when he was sure the credits had transferred properly, he said, “I'm a drell.”
“Oh, I think I've heard of you guys!” she said cheerfully, “You're the ones living with the hanar right?
“Yeah. Listen, I need to meet my quota for today, so I should run. Here's your ticket. But hey, before I go, can I ask you a question?”
“Only if you buy a pack of girl guide cookies first.”
“Never mind, it's a human joke,”she smiled again and Kolyat watched her alien, soft looking skin stretch. “So, what can I do for you Officer?”
The young man paused for the briefest of seconds. He kind of liked how that sentence had ended.
“Uh. Do you happen to know what a “horse” is?” he asked.
The girl made a face he couldn't interpret, saying, “That's kind of from left field, but yeah; it's this big earth animal, why?”
“Is that some kind of human euphemism or something?
Oriana couldn't help as her eyes drifted down towards garishly bright green shorts. It was struggle to look anywhere else. Kolyat seemed to notice, because he hunched his shoulders, and then shoved her ticket toward her chest. He didn't seem at all perturbed when he touched one of her breasts with the side of his hand.
“Um,” she said, blinking owlishly.
“You have to take this now,” he said, pushing the ticket forward.
Oriana blushed but didn't say anything besides a slightly surprised, “Oh, right. Thanks.” There was no need to make things any more awkward than they already were.
Both their hands met for an instant when she took the card before the drell's returned to his sides. Oriana wasn't sure if he noticed that he was balling them into fists. Then again, maybe the body language meant something entirely different to his culture. Maybe that was his way of saying he liked her hair.
“You never answered my question,” the boy said, sounding a little peevish now.
In response Oriana offered him her best coy smile, saying, “I'll tell you at the auction.”
“If I even bother showing up”
“Your call,”she said as she closed the door. “I'll see you later.”