Thane recognises him immediately- it is the Shapeless One, the avatar of the dark and shifting ocean that all beings visit when they sleep. He stands back, and watches himself walk to meet Irikah and Kolyat. The drell never ran to his family, he realises now, and the thought fills him with not a little regret.
The Shapeless One regards him with eyes black and infinite: starless space, like all drell.
"You dream of them often."
"I cannot stop it." Thane coughs, a small rumbling in his chest reminding him that even here, his time is pouring away like water through cupped hands.
"Would you, if you could?"
Irikah and Kolyat are smiling: it's a fine day at the beach that never happened in the waking world. He was always too busy, or too tired, too wrapped up in his own world to know that one day he would ache for moments like this with every fibre of his being. Thane watches himself take his son in his arms, and the world is flooded with blurred light. He blinks, and they are gone.
"I would not."
Drell memory does not apply to dreams. When Thane awakes, all he can feel is an ache, and that is too familiar to be noticed.
He only remembers that she comes when she's there. The little girl with the haircut that looks like it was made by a half-blind turian, dressed in a motley assortment of clothes and carrying a fistful of brightly coloured balloons. Kaidan doesn't know how she gets there every time, but just as soon as the pain gets really bad he sees her.
"Go 'way." He moans, turning onto his stomach to block out the hated light.
"I'm staying, actually. I like you ever so much." Her voice burbles like water, up and down and around into every squiggle of his brain. Though his eyes are closed he can see her words bursting like fireworks in the darkness, pink and yellow and blue. She whispers in his ear, confidentially. "You're one of my favourites."
Kaidan risks turning his head and sees that her balloons are actually fish. This strikes him as entirely logical, though not in any way he could reasonably explain. The girl sees him looking and giggles.
"I like your world. The fishes are so interesting!"
"Then go and bother them." He isn't normally this mean to children, he's sure. But this girl is exceptionally annoying. Plus it's proof positive that Kaidan is mad. Do they let you continue in the Alliance if you're mad? Judging by some of the top brass, they probably do. Shepard's completely crazy and they made her a Spectre. The thought amuses him more than it normally would, but the laughter is like ground glass behind his eyes, so he stops.
"What were you laughing about?" Chakwas asks later. Kaidan blinks, the absence of pain in his head still something novel. He keeps poking at it, gingerly, as you would a scab.
"I was laughing?"
The dancer's hands move in the slow pattern of death and memory. Their white robes move heavily in the still air of the lifeship, and behind them Rael'Zorah's coffin rests on the dais, waiting to be ejected into the void. Tali blinks back tears- crying in a visor is a nuisance- and reminds herself sternly that she has the parts of her father that will endure. She has already sorted through his belongings with Aunty Raan, sending the things that can still be used to be taken by the rest of the crew. Tali only kept a few mementoes. A holo of her mother. Some notes from his work. A book of stories about Rannoch that Rael used to read to her.
It's not enough.
There's no music, but the dance unmistakably changes tempo as the young quarian moves into the pattern that speaks of home. Though Tali, through the blur of tears and her visor, cannot tell if the dancer is male or female, she feels the dance as strongly as if she is performing it herself. The desire for home is so overwhelming that Tali can almost taste it. The movements tell the story of their exile, and promise a return. Tali repeats the promise in half-sketched gestures close to her body- she's no dancer, but the movements seem to force their way out regardless. She's never wanted anything as badly as she's wanted the homeworld.
"Rael'Zorah vas Alarei," Tali's voice wavers a little as she steps forward. "Your family commits you to your final voyage. Sail on, and know that you will be remembered."
"You will be remembered." The crowd intones, and Rael's coffin slides forward into space.
Tuchanka is a world that any sane race would have abandoned long ago. Shrouded in a permanent nuclear winter, the buildings aren't buildings so much as caves made from rubble and covered over craters. Other races live in gleaming spires and endless oceans. Here on Tuchanka, Urdnot Traz reflects as he wakes the building team, the krogan live on a construction site.
Because most krogan prefer to go offworld than help the situation in their own home, Traz's crew are a motley lot, mostly petty criminals like the couple of hoarders elbowing each other in the queue for breakfast. Hoarding food is frowned upon when it's so scare, but as these two are still softplates Wrex assigned them to the construction crew, making their constant shoving and bickering Traz's problem. Traz barks at them to quiet down, and reinforces it with a couple of headbutts before settling down opposite Dak.
"Idiots." Dak says conversationally, inclining his head to where the hoarders are now loudly arguing about whose fault the scolding was. Traz nods.
"It's why they're in the construction team." he grunts, shovelling a spoonful of glop into his mouth. "Like arguing's gonna get them out of their sentence any faster." He chews for a bit, swallows, then looks at Dak speculatively.
"Never found out why you're here, come to think of it. What did you do?"
Dak shrugs. "I got myself assigned here."
Traz barks a laugh. "Good joke. No krogan wants to build. No honour in it."
"That's a load of crap." Dak points out the window to the sit. "Today, we're rebuilding a hospital that'll help our clan grow strong and mighty. Maybe even help the whole planet drag itself out of the void someday. You saying that's got no honour to it?"
Traz makes a derisive noise and resumes eating. That's Dak's trouble, he thinks. He's touched in the head.
She looks into the mirror and sees that her skin has gone gray with grief and exhaustion. Her scalp is scaly and dry, and there are huge shadows under her eyes. Her mouth droops slightly, as if something is pulling it down on one side. A fishhook, maybe. Hooked, trapped, dragged on by these emotions like, yes, a fish on a line. Liara usually has a tin ear for metaphor but this one does nicely.
Give in. Her reflection tells her, in a groaning whisper that tastes of dust and wasted days. Lie down. She's gone. It's over.
Liara should be used to losing people by now. Her mother's partner had left before she was born, and Benezia had been taken from her by Sovereign. Shepard, her body left to Cerberus- will she ever see her again? Liara doesn't know. She should have let the human rest, but a life without the possibility of seeing Shepard again was one that the asari almost couldn't contemplate.
Almost. Not quite. If she couldn't live with the despair, then Liara decided that she should do something about it. Shepard could not be dead. She would not allow it.
A deep breath, and the reflection's gone.
The first time, it's a tragedy: she screams, she shouts, she lets tears fall that have been held back since Virmire and wipes them away quickly before they can be seen. It was not fair. It was not right. She was needed. The girl, her black eyes dark as the void they stand in, listens, then asks for the full story. As if she doesn't already know.
Shepard tells her everything. Eden Prime, the Geth, and further back to a life spent moving from one ship to the next- even the bits she'd never told anyone else. How she'd felt when Kaidan died. The reason why she chose him. Attending the memorial service on the Citadel. How she'd been terrified of heights since she was a little girl, and walking up to Sovereign was the scariest thing she'd ever done. The savor of conquering that fear, a feeling she revisits more often than she likes.
But before Shepard can finish, she's wrenched back. The world turns red, then white. Death vanishes, and the sensation of choking returns. She doesn't remember the girl when she wakes, though her dreams sometimes feature a pale face, black hair, a swirl of eyeliner.
The second time, it's like coming home. Death holds out her hand, and Shepard takes it gratefully.