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N7 Month Prompts 2k17

Chapter Text

Alicia and EDI took seats across from each other in the crew mess. They had a chess board set up between them in the quiet between shift changes. Alicia set up the pieces while EDI sat with her hands folded in her lap.

"Shepard, I have come up with a few more questions for you?"

A small smile graced Alicia's lips. It had been a year since the end of the Reaper War. Here she was, finally back on her own ship. With her own ship. She made her first move--queen's pawn two spaces--and passed it.

"Ask me."

"What does touch feel like?"

The pair carried on with their moves seamlessly. The conversation was like a blanket overtop. Alicia's lips formed a thin line.

"Shouldn't you be able to look it up on the Extranet?"

"Virtually no writers exposit about how it feels with untouchable beings in mind. The ones who do are, to put it lightly, conspiracy theorists. Or pornographers. Neither has much basis in fact."

Alicia chuckled as she moved her rook accordingly. "Alright. Touch for most organics is essential for mental health. Certain touches release certain neurotransmitters, but it's difficult to explain to someone without the sense."

"Like describing color to a person without sight."

"Precisely. Check." Alicia smirked.

EDI moved her king to a less dangerous location.

"The best I can think to describe it is warmth, but you don't feel that either."

"Another question, then. How are things going with Thane and Garrus?" Her posture relaxed by degrees.

Alicia considered her move for a moment. "I almost expected you to keep asking about organic life."

"Perhaps I have acquired the same spontaneity which characterizes organic life."

"Nobody tell Joker." She laughed. "To answer your question, they're doing fine. Garrus is taking care of our three children we've adopted. Thane is working at C-Sec, if you can believe it."

"Check. I would be inclined to believe that."

Her brow furrowed minutely. "How are things with you and Joker, by the way?"

"We are currently discussing the possibility of marriage, though it would be a tough journey to set out upon. A.I.s are still not categorized as people, so any move of marriage to Jeff would not be permissable in any court of law." EDI paused to capture a pawn. "I think he knows this, yet he still wants to entertainthe possibility."

Alicia smiled briefly. "It's probably more symbolic than anything else."

"That would align with logic. I think Jeff would be sentimental in that way."

"Besides, it would be a great excuse to get everyone together again." Alicia stood to grab a quick snack.

"I don't believe organics require an occasion to get their...family together."

Alicia ate a spoonful of yogurt and sat back down again. "Why call our group family?"

"Your blood relation with Zaeed Massani notwithstanding, your squadmates grew emotionally close to one another and to you. The group functions much as a large and extended family would. I do not think that can be said for all crews in the Alliance and other militaries. Your ship is truly unique." EDI seemed amused by this.

Alicia thought about the concept. She'd never considered her whole crew in that way. The game carried on without words for a few minutes.

"Do you think you'll retire with your husbands and children soon?" EDI folded her hands in her lap once again.

"Perhaps. It will be nice to enjoy the galaxy for once. Relax and wait for the next catastrophic event to come around." Alicia leaned her chin on her palm.

"You believe that another threat in your lifetime is inevitable?"

She couldn't meet EDI's eyes. "With my luck, it's almost a guarantee."

There was a silence in which no moves were made. Just the hum of the engines all around. Alicia finished her yogurt. It didn't taste like the advertised strawberries. There was something melancholic to it. EDI gently brought her hand to Alicia's shoulder. "While it is statistically probable, you shouldn't expect the worst."

Alicia sighed to herself. "I'm an admiral. It's my job. Checkmate."

EDI analyzed the board and found that she had been bested. "This has been a refreshing game, Shepard." She put the pieces away meticulously.

Alicia began her walk towards the elevator. "So it has been for me as well. We'll have to do this again sometime."

Chapter Text

Kiari stood in line in the right wing of the stage. She'd earned her perfect posture and N7 armor. The youngest ever awarded this honor. What she lacked in experience, she more than made up for in tenacity and a cool head. She needed only accept her helmet. The hell of training would be worth it.

Kiari was fourth in the line of ten. Fifty had entered the program at the beginning of the session. She had survived, refusing to die. She let the Alliance anthem wash over her.

A hand on her arm pulled her aside, and she'd nearly aimed a punch in reflexive defense when she realized who it was. Her muscles didn't relax.

"Alec?"

"Kiari, we have to go now." It sounded robotic. She already knew he didn't have a soul, but this?

"What do you mean? I'm kind of in the middle of something here." She shook her arm free from his hold. He wasn't put out.

"You signed up for the Initiative, remember?"

It all hit her in a flash. She hadn't realized launch would coincide with the ceremony. No, she would have had enough time. She'd checked and double-checked to the point of madness to ensure she'd be able to pull this off. Had they moved it up and not told her? Had there been an incident? If so, why hadn't Scott told her? She wouldn't have been able to respond, but he'd been able to send her vidmails during her training. What was she missing? None of this showed in her eyes.

"Can't I stay for this? I'm almost there." She didn't plead with him, only request.

There was nothing of regret in his eyes. "Kiari, no. We have to get to the Citadel for launch. If we waste any more time, I'll have to leave without you."

Her fists clenched involuntarily. Maybe that punch wouldn't have been an accident. The pitch of her voice lowered to a deadly, low growl. "Dad, I made it. I went through the training just like you did. All I have to do is get my helmet, and we can leave. Can you please let me do this? Can you please at least act like you're proud of me?"

He rubbed at his eyes. "You and I both know that Hackett and crew will make speeches and want you to mingle. Kiari, what will Scott think if I don't bring you. He'll be devastated."

That broke her. She took a deep breath as one of the attendants came up to her.

"Miss Ryder, it's your turn."

Time could have stopped, and she wouldn't have noticed. The moment was encased in a sticky glob of amber. She was the insect trapped within. "I'm sorry. Something's come up. I have to go." Cold and even.

The line of fellow trainees whispered like grass in the wind. "If you leave now, you won't be recognized as an N7."

Kiari turned and walked to Alec's shuttle ahead of him. He caught up with her in two strides. She didn't look at him as they walked in step, eyes forward.

"I'm proud of you."

She kept marching, emotionless to hold the tears in. After all, N7s don't cry.

Chapter Text

She shambled into the cargo bay like a ghostly apparition. The color had almost entirely drained from her face. Kaidan hauled her in towards the med bay, hoping against hope that everything would be okay. She had to be okay. Chakwas went to work, and he paced outside.

Liara met his eyes from the door of her station and motioned him inside. His gaze flicked to his commander, his wife, still unconscious on the doctor's table. Her brow furrowed with insistence. Kaidan entered her de facto lair, almost flinching as the door slid shut behind him.

"What happened?"

She took a deep, steadying breath. "We won't be able to know much until she wakes up, but I've been able to piece some of it together." She turned and hit a few keys on her board. A diagram of Earth and the Crucible appeared in miniature.

"As far as I can tell, there was something that kept the Crucible from firing, an input that had to be registered by Shepard at a higher level. A choice of some kind."

Kaidan crossed his arms over his chest. "What kind of choice?"

"It likely would have been fatal for her regardless of what she did." She glanced down at her fidgeting hands.

He swallowed thickly. "How is she still alive? What did she do?" She didn't look at him. "Liara?"

Her eyes bored into his. "She chose not to decide. She ran and made it out alive. Now Anderson and The Illusive Man are dead. It might have been a way to live to fight another day, but...this was supposed to be that day. If we can't get the Crucible to fire-"

The door opened behind them. Dr. Chakwas stood in the archway. She walked back to her med bay and expected them to follow. They did. Veronica sat up in bed. Her cheek, forehead, left arm, and right leg were medigelled and bandaged for healing. Tears slid over the cloth. Kaidan knelt by her side, holding her uninjured hand tenderly.

"Veronica-"

"The Catalyst wasn't a what. It was a whom."

Kaidan glanced to Liara. Shock and awe. He looked back to the commander and squeezed her hand.

She continued. "I could have destroyed all synthetic life in the galaxy. The explosion would have killed me." A rattling breath separated this option from the next. "I could have chosen to control the Reapers, give up my physical form to ensure the survival of all life." Another breath. "Or, I could have synthesized my DNA into all life in the galaxy. All of my DNA. Nothing more of me would remain."

Veronica paused to sob. She took her hand from Kaidan's to hold it to her face. She was a broken woman. "They--the Reapers--got to me. No matter what I did, it was suicide, and for a moment, it seemed like those were my options."

Liara finally stepped forwards. "Shepard, you could have saved everyone. All those lives if you'd only decided. Do you realize what-"

"Shut the hell up. Of course, I do!" Her strained voice rang through the silent room. Only the hum of the machinery. "But it would have meant bending to the Reaper's will. They were changing me, just like they did to Saren and The Illusive Man. I couldn't let what happened to them happen to me. I had to do something. I had to fight it."

Veronica paused for effect. "We're all going to die. There's no way around it. All of us. But we'll die fighting, and we'll give the next cycle the best chance we can. Clear?"

Dr. Chakwas answered from the corner of the room. "Understood, Veronica."

Kaidan hugged her close, and for just one moment, there was peace in the galaxy.

Chapter Text

Bianca hit the bag a few more times. Club beats pounded into her ears from her headphones. It all felt so familiar and natural. Footsteps behind her reverberated into her bones. She rested, tugging her headset down onto her neck. She turned around to set who it was.

"You guys need something?" Garrus, Tali, Miranda, Samara, and Thane. She moved to unwrap her knuckles.

"I thought I'd take you up on your sparring offer." Garrus shot her a lopsided grin. Bianca smirked.

"And here I thought--oh, what did you say? You didn't want to join the list of asses I've kicked?"

Garrus rolled his neck. "I thought I'd humor you."

"And why is everyone else present?" Bianca shifted her weight to one hip and stretched her arms.

Miranda grumbled a bit. "Tali and Thane made bets."

She raised a brow at them. Thane smiled sheepishly.

"Your illustrious engineer bet that you would drop him in two minutes. I bet half that or less."

Bianca shrugged. "Fair enough." She refastened her bounds and turned off her music. Setting her headphones to the side, she took a place on the mat with a practiced swagger to her step.

Garrus stepped on next to her and lowered into a fighting stance. Bianca kept her eyes on his as they circled each other.

"You'll ref, Samara?"

"I wouldn't miss it for the world."

The only sounds in the cargo bay were the light patting of their feet and the gentle hum of the engine. Bianca had finally shaved her head back to its pre-death buzzcut. She felt as though the clutches of death had released her at last.

Garrus struck first, feet kicking up to get her off balance. She stayed solid and blocked his knee off with her forearm. Bianca slid a punch into the soft between his rib plates, knocking the wind out of him. He got a solid jab into her solar plexus. She hooked her ankle behind his knee and brought her opposite knee up to his unprotected chin. Her fingertips plucked at his frontal plate. He shuddered and keeled over.

Bianca backed off, rolling him over onto his back with her heel. She looked over her shoulder at Thane and Tali.

"Did anyone time that?"

"Please tell me someone timed that," Garrus wheezed.

EDI appeared on a nearby console. "56.39 seconds."

Thane tipped his head in thanks. "Good game, Miss Z'orah."

Bianca helped Garrus to his feet. "No hard feelings?"

He groaned as he stretched his neck back. "The only hard feeling I have is a pain in my jaw. Good round, Shepard."

She pat his back consolingly. "Welcome to the list."

Chapter Text

Fire enveloped the fiend in seconds, and it soon keeled over from the assault rifle rounds poured into its belly. Dani grumbled something obscene and jogged back to the Nomad. Reyes stared at them for a moment.

"How did you do that?"

"Do what?" they wheezed.

Cora stretched a bit next to them. "I think he's asking how you got the fire to go out of control like that?"

Dani chuckled. "It wasn't easy. Nearly took off the rest of my eyebrow trying to get it to trigger right. It's still not going as fluidly as I'd like."

"Here. Let me try." Reyes held out his hand for their omnitool. They unclipped it and handed it over.

"Please face away from the Nomad. I happen to like the gold paintjob." Dani pulled a granola bar out of their suit and bit off the wrapper. They gave Cora another when they saw her eyeing it. Reyes fiddled with the device, letting it shoot a few sparks.

"And I still say it was a waste of resources."

Dani put their hands up in defense. "Hey, Alec wouldn't have set it up as an option if he didn't want me to use it." They smiled to themself and took a large bite.

Reyes turned back to Dani and clipped the omnitool back onto their wrist. "Try it now."

They stepped a few feet away and let it rip. Orange and crimson flame cascaded out and into the air. They laughed in victory and swung their arm to wave the fire around.

"Hell yes! Thanks, babe. Now, back to the Nomad!"

Reyes and Cora groaned in unison at the thought. If it could be believed, Dani was something of an adrenaline junkie.

Chapter Text

Kiari bounced her leg as she waited for Scott to arrive. The beauty of Jaal's home on Havarl surrounded them. The sounds of Liam cooking and humming a tuneless song emanated from the kitchen. The alarm on the door sounded, asking for entry. She vaulted over the couch and put in the passcode for the door. Scott dropped his bags in anticipation.

Kiari jumped and flung her arms around his neck. He caught her under her thighs and spun her around. She leaned back and waved on arm through the air until he set her back down again.

"Miss me much, oh big and glorious Pathfinder?" Scott hugged her again.

They wobbled from side to side together. "Oh come on. You know I don't use my title anymore."

"Too bad, sis. It's yours forever. Congratu-fucking-lations." Scott took a sweeping look around the place. "Where's my girl?"

Kiari stepped away and called across the house. "Gloria! Your uncle's here!"

The four year-old angara toddled in and went right up to Scott. She hugged him around the knees.

"There's my girl!" He pat her head then looked up at Kiari. "She hugs just like you." Scott turned to grab his bags, but Gloria held fast. She refused to move. "A little help?"

Jaal came in a gently tugged his child away from Scott. Her arms transferred quickly to his neck instead. He smiled at Scott. "It is good to see you well."

Kiari almost closed the door behind Scott. Reyes slipped inside just before it shut and locked. He smiled that charming smile. She sighed and pat his arm.

"Good to see you too, Rey."

Jaal's expression went emotionless for a moment. Gloria pushed at the corners of his mouth to get him to smile. He aquiesced and chose to look at Scott instead.

Liam popped his head into the room. "Supper's ready if you want it."

Gloria wriggled down from Jaal's arms and ran towards Liam. Kiari and Scott followed shortly after. Reyes and Jaal bumped elbows a bit as they moved to take seats as far from each other as possible. Liam helped Gloria up into her chair. She gave him a quick hug.

"Thanks, Megatron!"

Scott snorted into his water. He looked to Kiari with a look of confusion. She deadpanned. Reyes was visibly holding back laughter.

"I don't know, Scooter. It just happened."

Reyes glanced over at Scott. "Scooter?"

He groaned. "Really, sib? You're bringing this back?"

Kiari chuckled behind her hand before digging into the porkchops. "Yes."

Scott choked down a couple spoonfuls of frozen peas. "Fine. Nice to be back, Dalish."

She brought her forehead to her palm. She shook with laughter and let out a prolonged "No."

"I sense a story." Reyes leaned forwards onto his elbow.

Kiari sighed and took a sip of wine. "Scooter and I were into the remastered version of Dragon Age. Mom chose my name because she thought it sounded elven. I used to always play as a Dalish elf in Origins and Inquisition. So...yeah."

"And what about Scooter?"

Scott grumbled. "I rode a scooter all the way down the Presidium when I was seven."

Everybody laughed. Gloria fiddled with her napkin. Kiari leaned over to help feed her. She sometimes didn't quite understand the nuances of eating with a fork and knife. Jaal watched the scene. It all felt too good to be true.

Reyes smiled and waved at his niece. She waved back. "I trust the packages were received for the...upcoming event." He'd sent birthday presents for Gloria's fifth birthday ahead.

"Still sealed," Kiari promised. "How goes business?"

Reyes' eyes darkened. "Do we really want to discuss this at the table?"

She tensed. "Is there something I should know?" Gloria picked up on the worry in her mother's voice.

He brightened immediately. "No! No. It's nothing out of the ordinary. Usual business isn't something for small ears, however."

Jaal hummed decisively. Kiari rolled her eyes and returned her attention to Gloria. She was glad to have the spotlight back on her and used this opportunity to smoosh some paste onto Kiari's cheek.

She took a deep breath. Her eyes relayed a message of warning. "Laugh and I will kill you." Kiari calmly wiped the food off with her own napkin. She turned to Gloria and wiped off her hand. "Food goes in your mouth. Not on your face."

Liam scooted over to take over feeding so that Kiari could eat. She pulled her chair back to her place.

"Everything is going well, then?"

Scott nodded. "And I recently went to check in on Meridian. The colonists are settling in nicely. Cora is enjoying her job, though I think S.A.M. misses having a frequent connection with you."

Kiari considered this while she swallowed down another bite. "I'll link in more often. It's just been so hectic here with the kid and the extended family and helping with tiny errands that take me halfway across the planet."

Scott grinned over at her. "And here I thought you weren't the Pathfinder anymore."

"I'm not." She pushed her food around with her fork. "But I'm still the head of the team that restored the angaran homeworld. That kind of thing means my services are in high demand."

Reyes leaned forward. "Speaking of your services-"

"Ooooh no. We are not talking shop right now." Kiari stared him down.

"But-" Her glare hardened. "Has she always been this good at that?"

Jaal, Liam, and Scott exchanged glances. "Yes.

Chapter Text

Reyes knew that Sara was coming into port a few hours in advance. He watched her as she emerged from the lift leading out to the badlands. There was something off about her. She was alone.

She'd raced off to take care of some business on Voeld, but it wasn't clear where she went after that. He gathered that she'd docked at the Nexus for resupply. Sara hadn't called to tell him she was coming back to Kadara. He didn't really mind that. It wasn't like he was her boyfriend or anything. Still, after that kiss on the cargo crates, it would have been...nice. Reassuring, maybe.

Sara marched straight for Tartarus. Into the belly of the beast. She requested entry for his closed of section, waiting there with her arms crossed over her chest. She still had her side piece but no armor outside of her fortified jacket. He let her inside.

"Ryder, to what do I owe the plea-"

Sara headed for him without hesitation. The look in her eyes held something cold and dead. She positioned herself on his lap with her knees on either side of his hips. Her lips crashed into his. He confusedly kissed back, holding her waist as she clung to his shoulders. This felt wrong, like something slimy had wormed its way between them.

Reyes gently pushed her back. "Not that I'm not incredibly flattered, but I get the feeling something's wrong."

Sara wrenched her hand into his hair. "Shut up. I don't want to think right now."

Were there tears in her eyes? Oh no. They wouldn't fall, but they were right there at the surface. Reyes cupped her cheek in his hand.

"Sara. What happened?"

She closed her eyes. "I died on the Archon's flagship." Her voice shook in a way he'd never seen before. She was always confident and cocksure. Not now. This almost didn't feel like her.

He held her tighter. "How? Why?"

Sara's eyes were still shut tight. "Squad got stuck in a containment field activated by living matter. S.A.M. killed me for long enough to get out of it. I died there, Reyes." His name cracked. Tears finally overwhelmed her lids. She buried her eyes in his neck.

Reyes carefully pulled her closer. It finally hit him how much the Pathfinder went through for Initiative. And most of them wouldn't even give her the time of day. While they went on their merry way, she was literally dying for them. He massaged at her shoulders and back, forcing the muscles to relax as he soothed her with quiet words.

Sara threw a few soft punches at his chest. "Damn you." She said it again, quieter and still sobbing. "I would have been fine if you hadn't made me talk about it."

He whispered into her soft hair pressed against him. "No, you wouldn't have."

She sniffed and pulled her head up, wiping at her eyes. Eventually, the tears stopped coming. Reyes helped her put her hair back in order.

"Feel better?"

Sara huffed a bit of laughter. "Yeah, yeah. Emotional release valve and all that." She sighed to herself and held his hand in hers. "Now will you shut up and fuck me?"

Reyes laughed and pushed her down onto the couch next to him. "You're so very eloquent."

"Trust me, I can find a better use for my mouth if you like." She winked, and the violence and brutality of the world faded from their minds, if only for a couple hours.

Chapter Text

Alexandra flicked through the reports, forcing her eyes to focus on the datapad. Liara laid with her head on her love's lap. She gently carressed her crest. Liara hummed low in her throat to get her attention. She set the datapad aside.

"So, about last night." Alex held her hand in hers with a sweet smile. Liara continued. "Some of your...frankly terrible dirty talk was in asari."

Alex laughed behind their joined hands. "I haven't done that in forever."

"How do you even know the language? Why didn't I know about it?" Liara was smiling too.

She kissed her hand. "I learned some asari and salarian language with common dialects while I was working my way up to N7. I tried to learn a bit of turian, but I could never get the accent right. My salarian is choppy, but as you heard, I'm fluent in yours."

Liara reached up and drew a finger down her cheek. "I could try to learn some human language if you'd like."

"Whatever you do, don't try to learn English. It makes no sense and is needlessly difficult."

"Spanish, then?"

"That's what I speak usually."

Liara considered that for a moment. "What about James?" Alex blinked. "He sometimes uses words that don't translate and his accent comes through."

She shrugged. "That's just James being James. Plus, some words just don't have the same meaning even if the translators say they do, so there's value in that."

"Yes, but the accent?"

"I don't really notice it, but that may be because I feel like I speak with a pretty thick accent. His is really light in comparison." Alex let the thought hang. "So...about last night."

Liara's lips curled into a grin.

Chapter Text

Bianca sat on an Alliance shuttle with a shock blanket wrapped around her shoulders. She was still covered in batarian blood. A few soldiers spoke fervently nearby. One of them broke away and took a seat beside her.

"Need a towel, kid?"

She smirked at the teasing then nodded weakly. The team made a daisy chain to pass it to her. She drug the towel through the grime and gore until her face and arms were clean. Her shirt was in rags from the biotic flare she'd unleashed as the Alliance patrol was arriving. There wasn't a scratch on her, but her parents were dead. Her friends and neighbors were dead or enslaved. She felt numb, as though she were waiting for the boot to fall. Shatter the illusion. Wake up the next day with everything back to normal.

"Mind telling us your name?"

"Bianca. Bianca Shepard." She wanted to disappear. Let these people get on with their day. Why were they so concerned for her? She just had chores to do.

The soldier smiled at her. She couldn't really tell if it was genuine, but the feeling reached his eyes. That was enough for her. "Nice to meet you, Bianca. I'm Captain Arnold Kellin."

She held the blanket a little tighter, still trying to make sense of it all. The others sat around her, but none of them tried to crowd.

"That was quite the display back there."

Bianca sighed. This again. "My biotics manifested late. I was planning on enlisting when I turned eighteen. I already had an L3 amp to keep my levels even. That event wasn't really supposed to happen."

One of the women got her attention. Her tag said her last name was Mason. "Be thankful it did. You saved yourself."

She nodded to herself. "What's gonna happen to me? I...I killed some of those batarians."

Kellin and Mason, probably his lieutenant, exchanged a worried glance. From what Bianca could gather, they didn't really know.

"You were defending yourself. Most likely, you'll be transferred into a foster family until you turn eighteen. At that point, you were already going to enlist, so it's a bit moot," Kellin explained. He was trying to comfort, but it didn't help.

She shrugged. "Why wait? I could always start training early."

Mason shook her head. "You're still a civilian, Bianca, and a sixteen year old isn't mature enough to handle the trials of combat."

"I can't go back to being a regular kid now, ma'am. I've lost everyone I've ever known. I don't have any family who will accept me. I have no illusions of ever being a civilian." She paused, almost dramatically. "You read about life-changing points in history, and you always think to yourself "something like that will never happen to me." And then it does. And there's nothing you can do about it. I can't go back."

The soldiers were silent. A timid-looking woman with a buzzcut by the name of Peterson offered her hand shakily. Bianca looked at the hand for a moment before accepting. The soldier squeezed the child's hand and cupped her other hand over it.

"It will be okay." Her voice was hoarse for underuse. "There will be mental health services available to help you adjust. I should know."

"You used to be a colony kid?" She was a bit incredulous.

"Yes. Raids were less common back then, but the Alliance wanted to ensure that the survivors were well taken care of. I promise they will help you like they helped me."

Bianca nodded numbly. The woman's words were just that. Words. No promise. No future. No hope. Just blanket kindness. For some reason, that felt worse. Peterson was just saying those words with none of the meaning behind them. Bianca felt rage flaring over her, but something made her tamp down.

She took a deep breath and looked out the window at the vast expanse of space. Her jaw dropped at the sight. She'd never been anywhere outside her fair sized farming town, much less to space. She watched in wonder as Mindoir retreated from them. Everything she'd ever known was so small. It could fit on the head of a pin. For a few moments, she gazed at the stars, and the problems of the universe let her be. Simply be.

A few hours later, the shuttle arrived at Arcturus Station. Bianca marvelled at the sight. She'd only ever seen pictures of spaceships on the Extranet. The other soldiers milled about to prepare for docking, but Mason took a seat beside her.

"You've never been to space, right?"

Bianca couldn't tear her eyes away from the window. "My family never had a reason to. I almost snuck onto a shuttle once, but my mother used to be a Sentinel in the Alliance. She followed me and brought me back. That was the night she told me she was pregnant. I knew I had to stay for my baby sister. I...never got to meet her."

"I'm so sorry."

"Why are you guys bringing me to this station anyways? Do they actually have an adoption center here?"

Mason glanced away. "It's the safest place to keep you specifically."

Bianca's eyebrows drew together. "Why would I need...oh. Right. Biotics." She chuckled to herself.

"Yeah. Sorry about all this, kid."

"It isn't your fault, but...can you guys stay with me to make sure I get through this?" Her voice shook traitorously.

"We aren't exactly lawyers, but we'll stay close." Mason's light-hearted tone helped. Bianca smiled shyly as the docking clamps came around the shuttle. The door opened to reveal two more Alliance soldiers.

The taller of the two, Oxwell, stepped forwards. "Ma'am, we've been assigned to escort you to the medbay. Please come with us."

Bianca paused. This felt a lot like she was being taken into custody. "Aside from the shock of everything I've ever known being destroyed, I'm fine."

"It's possible that you could be suffering from internal bleeding."

The captain stepped up behind her. "Barrymore: You performed a medical examination and full-body scan on sight for Bianca Shepard, correct?" He was very matter-of-fact about the situation.

A heavily muscled man nodded. "Bianca has no injuries, serious or otherwise, from the events taking place on Mindoir. And she will not be treated as a prisoner here, sirs."

The shorter soldier, Smith, nodded in agreement. "In that case, will all of you accompany us to see Admiral Hackett."

Mason gestured Bianca forwards. She had no choice but to follow towards an elevator. Oxwell swiped a keycard then scanned an eye to get to the admiral's office. The long hallway from the exit of the elevator to the office door felt endless, dreamlike. She prayed she could wake up, but no such reprieve arrived as Bianca entered.

The admiral sat at his desk with a large amount of paperwork surrounding him. Color-coded and thick with red tape. She took a careful seat in front of him. The soldiers stood behind, out of her field of vision. Hackett looked up at her and sat with military-straight posture. Bianca subconsciously mimicked him.

"Bianca Shepard? I'm Admiral Hackett. It's a pleasure to meet you." He extended his hand to her, and she hurried to shake it strongly. "I heard the news of the attack on Mindoir. My condolences for your loss. I understand that you defended yourself with biotics until an Alliance squad was able to rescue you."

"My mother was Hannah Shepard. Our farm was close to the edge of the town, and she told me to run. When I couldn't run anymore, I put up a barrier just like she taught me. I was running low on strength when I saw the shuttle arrive. Somehow, my biotics flared and wiped out the batarians nearest to me. My L3 implant is Alliance grade, and I am registered to have it. I have my permits and other associated documentation on my omnitool."

When she finished, she heaved a great sigh. Hackett made a motion to one of the soldiers behind her. Before she could ask what it was for, Barrymore handed her a granola bar and some orange juice. Hackett stared pensively while Bianca devoured the food.

"Sir, I was planning on enlisting in the Alliance once I turned eighteen, and I'm only a few months from turning seventeen."

"You want to start your training early."

Bianca looked down at her hands. "Yes, sir."

"I can't allow that, Bianca." She geared up to throw an angry fit, but Hackett held up a hand. "I can allow you to stay on Arcturus station under my supervision until you turn eighteen. You would be required to attend high school classes here and work a few hours a week for spending money, but you will be safe."

She almost jumped at the chance, but her logical mind stopped her. "Sir, this is a generous offer, but why adopt me? I'm sure there are plenty of other orphans who could use this chance far more desperately than I."

He hesitated. That couldn't have been good. "Before her honorable discharge, Hannah Shepard was a good friend of mine. I believe that I owe her this much for all she did for me. Do you understand?"

Bianca felt a grin slipping onto her face. She saluted sharply, just as her mother had taught her. "Of course, sir."

~~~~~~~

Bianca brought her chin up as the door to her hospital room opened. She still felt like death. In the doorway, her almost father knocked lightly at the wall. She couldn't help but smile. He didn't return the favor.

"Bianca, you should have pulled back and called for backup." He sat beside her bed and held her hand.

There was something in her eyes that hadn't been there the last time he'd seen her. She wasn't the scared little kid who'd come into his office, sad and confused. Bianca was a creature of rage and vengeance, and she'd had her share of bloodshed to sate the beast. The scar sliced across her nose to proved it.

"I got the job done."

"You lost your whole squad to do it."

Bianca's gaze hardened on him. "The batarians will never make another orphan like me, Hackett."

It finally hit him. Her hand squeezed his.

"Never again."

He patted her hand. "Never again."

~~~~~~~

Another hospital bed. Years later. The scar on her nose was gone. Her legs weren't quite healed yet. She was alive. A drell sat next to her. Hackett watched the scene for a moment. Thane helped her brush her hair back from her face.

Bianca looked up at him and smiled weakly. "I did it, dad."

He stopped, tilted his head at her. Her pupils were dilated. Pain medication. Thane shrugged at him and gestured closer. Hackett sat to the other side of her. The Reapers were destroyed. The galaxy was at peace. Bianca was alive.

"You sure did, sweetie. You sure did."

Chapter Text

Bianca laid on some of the crates in the main battery. She sighed to herself as she wrote out her report. Garrus attended to his callibrations to her left. Tali fiddled with a device on the floor next to her. There was a pause in the clicking. Her gaze slid up to her taller friend.

"So...Krios."

"Really? That's how you're going to introduce this subject?" Her flat tone almost sent shivers down his spine.

Tali shrugged. "You have to admit, Bi, it is a bit odd to see you in love like this."

Bianca glared hard, but it didn't have the same fire she was used to. "It's a suicide mission. Why not?"

Garrus turned around to lean back on his console. "Just didn't think he was your type."

She tilted her head at him. "When have I ever been interested in anyone before?"

"Exactly!" He threw his hands up. "How are we supposed to react to you being all doe-eyed?"

"I am not acting like some lovestruck teenager." Bianca sat straight up and crossed her arms over her chest. She let the thought seep in. "Am I?"

Tali pat her leg. "Yes, Bianca. Yes, you are. Frankly, it's a little adorable."

She jumped up and started pacing the room. "What did I even do to give it away this badly?"

Garrus laughed. "Was that a serious question?" She raised an eyebrow at him. "You stay close to him during firefights and shield him more than anybody else."

Bianca shrugged. "He's a sniper. I cover his short range."

"Yes, but when you bring me along, you literally never-"

She grumbled something obscene. "Fine, fine. So...what do I do about it?"

"Well for starters, shield me!" Tali gently hit her leg. They all laughed at that. "As for serious advice, tell him how you feel." She took Bianca's hand and swung it around a bit for emphasis.

Bianca sighed to herself. "Fine. Maybe. I'll let you guys know how it goes, but keep in mind that he has a degenerative condition and a dead wife. My hopes are not high."

Garrus rolled his eyes. "I see the way he looks at you. You're special to him."

"Okay. This conversation is over. We're not talking about this." She started to walk towards the door. Thane stood to the opposite side of it. Bianca froze and just blinked for about three seconds.

She almost shoved past him, but he caught her at the waist and spun her around, setting her down in front of him again. Thane smiled at her. Bianca deadpanned. "I think I've embarassed myself enough for today, and just to spite all of you, I'm taking Grunt and Miranda on the next mission."

This time, Bianca made it past and ran all the way to the elevator. Garrus tsked quietly.

"Terrible with emotions, our commander."

Tali stood beside him as they watched her go. "I've seen varren with more finesse."

Chapter Text

The starlight came into Dani's room, illuminating every corner of it. S.A.M. shone softly on the desk. They laid their head on top of Reyes' chest as they set aside their reports. His hand found theirs, running his thumb over their knuckles.

"Dani?" They hummed to show they were listening. "Would you parents have...liked me?"

They laughed lightly at that. "Oh wow. Alec would have hated you. So much."

He smiled. "Really?"

"Yeah. He was a straightfoward, blunt force kind of guy. Wouldn't have copped to Kadara's politicking."

Reyes made an amused sound. They tilted their head to the side to look at him. "And here I thought you were nothing like your father."

Dani grew quiet. Even after all that time, it was still something of a sore subject. They squeezed Reyes' hand. "As for mom, I think she would have reserved judgement until she actually met you. She'd...really like how you've treated me, I think. Mom probably wouldn't be able to change Alec's mind about you, but he wouldn't openly oppose our relationship if Mom thought it was a good match. I think she will."

The silence hung there for a moment. Only the sound of breathing. Skin moving against soft sheets. Reyes considered their words.

"You said 'will' instead of 'would'."

Dani squeezed his hand hard. "I could say any number of this about it just meaning the afterlife, but...no. I don't mean it that way." They paused to sit up next to him, looking him in the eye. His hand remained in theirs. "I..When I began my work as Pathfinder, S.A.M. found that certain portions of his memory were blocked by Alec. As I progressed, I was able to find certain triggers that unlocked parts of his memories that he wanted to save for me to see. I found the all of these triggers, and they unlocked something I never could have guessed in a million years."

Dani stood up and began to pace off the nervous energy. They ran their prosthetic hand through their hair. Anything to stave off the inevitable. The words came out in a stream of jumbled language. "My mother's alive and the Milky Way is dead."

S.A.M. activated on the desk. "Dani, are you certain it's a good idea to inform Mr. Vidal of this?"

Reyes scooted to the edge of the bed. "And if it is a good idea, could you say it a bit slower? And explain?"

"It's...it's really important that you don't tell anybody about this. No one outside of S.A.M. and Scott and I knows about any of this." He nodded. They took a deep breath. "Alec created S.A.M. to cure my mom's terminal illness that she developed from chronic Element Zero exposure. This was bleeding edge at the time, and safety standards weren't invented yet. Alec...he put her in stasis and shipped her off to Andromeda against her will so that she might live. He saved me because he wanted to spare her the pain of losing a child and a husband. And all of this is why he made me Pathfinder."

Reyes sat there shocked for a moment. "Ellen has no idea where she is?"

"No. And there's more."

"How many bombs are we dropping tonight? Should I get refreshments?"

Dani didn't laugh. Didn't even smile. That was rare. They turned to gaze out at the vast expanse of the stars. "You're familiar with Commander Shepard?"

"You met her at a party."

"The very same." They crossed their arms over their chest. "She took down a rogue Spectre by the name of Saren. During that investigation, she discovered the existence of the Reapers and a cycle that wipes out all sentient organic life every 50,000 years."

Reyes thought for a moment. "I thought that was just a theory."

"From the arcs' last scans and contact from the Milky Way, we're...we're all that's left of the Milky Way species. We few." Dani clenched their fists. "And Alec, the person who lied to my brother and I, made us mourn our mom, he saved us."

Reyes stood and took Dani into his arms. "Are you certain?"

"The logs were clear. The Reapers breached the Sol system. The turian primarch's dead. The only hope was a weapon that Dr. Liara T'soni was helping to build with Shepard and her crew. I'm not liking those odds. We're it." Dani relented and pulled him closer. They breathed slowly, as though they might shatter. He rubbed his hand up and down their back.

Reyes only spoke once their shivers subsided. "If we're it, I'd say we're making a pretty good go of it, wouldn't you?"

Dani tilted their chin up to kiss him. They brought their arms up around his neck. When they parted, they whispered breathlessly against his lips. "Yeah. And I have you." They laughed dryly together. "Pretty good outcome."

He smiled and kissed them again. "The best."

Chapter Text

Sara tended to watch the Council sessions during her off hours. Her excavation crew had finally gotten the portable satellite working. The audio and video were plagued with static and white noise, but the subtitles were more than enough. They huddled together around the small set to listen to Saren's case. Penelope Jenkins passed her a bag of popcorn as they watched in rapt attention. Sara accepted without a word and plunged a handful into her mouth before forcing it into Eli's hands.

They'd been following this story for the past few hours with whatever news tools they could access from their Prothean ruins. Sara stared unblinkingly as Veronica Shepard presented the evidence of Saren's corruption. She couldn't believe she'd done it in one day. Maybe there was a bit of time lag, but nothing too substantial.

The Council seemed to mock Shepard for even insinuating that she should be a Spectre. She pushed on and refused to take no for an answer. The members looked to each other.

"Commander Veronica Lorenzo Shepard, step forward," the asari councillor began.

Eli whispered beside her. "Holy shit."

Penelope shushed him quickly.

"I didn't inhale any psychogenic space dust, did I?" Sara laughed to herself as the Council elevated Shepard to Spectre status before her very eyes.

As soon as the broadcast finished, they all cheered loudly. Eli fell backwards out of his seat from the force of his clapping. A few of the nonhuman member glanced over to see what all the fuss was about.

"You know what? Goals."

Penelope laughed and gently punched at Sara's shoulder. "Ooh, as if you'd ever be that cool."

"You say that as though I'm not already."

"Ah, yes, you're but an unrecognized genius." Eli bumped her shoulder as he got up.

Sara smiled and shook her head. "Come on. We've got a long way to go before quitting time."

"Right behind you, Ryder!"

Chapter Text

Sara navigated through the party with a fluid grace matched only by her asari friends. She was determined to meet her hero. She noticed a tall and elegant figure staying to the fringes of the gala. Her eyes fell upon a shorter and slightly wider figure. She weaved towards her and made eye contact soon after. The tall commander thought she was the target of Sara's eyes and was rather surprised when she walked over to Liara instead.

"Dr. T'soni, I read your thesis on Prothean civilization. I would love to hear more of your theories after these events."

The asari scientist was somewhat taken aback by this. Most of the people approaching the victorious party made a beeline for Shepard. Veronica turned to Kaidan and laughed a bit at this unprecedented turn of events.

"Looks like you've got a fan, Liara."

Sara flushed a pretty pink, but she was determined to talk with her. She took a short drink from her champagne. "I used to protect a team of scientists in studying Prothean artifacts. We debated your theories on the Reapers and such, but my colleagues didn't think you had enough concrete evidence. I can't wait to see what they say now."

Liara smiled graciously. "You're Sara Ryder, correct? Your mother made leaps and bounds in terms of biotic implants. It's an honor to meet you."

"The honor is all mine. Did you happen to uncover anything about the Protheans during all this?" Sara nearly bounced on the balls of her feet.

"I'll have something of a dissertation on my website within the week. I really do appreciate your interest, Madame Ryder."

She bowed minutely and turned to look up at Veronica Shepard. "And...thank you for...y'know, saving everybody."

Veronica raised her glass and headed off with Kaidan at her back. From Liara's expression, they were probably going to find some nondescript corner. Sara raised her glass in return and carried on through the crowd that allowed her to disappear.

Chapter Text

Joker turned his chair around when he heard Alicia coming in. She'd obviously been trying to sneak up on him and held something strangely box-shaped behind her back. He looked at her peculiarly for a moment.

"What's this?"

Alicia handed him the box with a small flourish. "I know I missed your birthday because I was...y'know..still kinda dead and all. But I was able to salvage something from Alchera."

Joker opened the box with a bit more care than he would have. Inside laid the charred then frozen remnants of his SR-1 hat. He looked at it in wonder then brought his eyes up to Alicia. "Holy shit."

"And don't worry. I got the good booze for tonight if this isn't sufficient." She grinned with a toothy smile and shifted her weight to one hip.

"Commander, this is...wow. I don't even know what to think of this. Thank you."

She nodded. "Have to remember what we came from." Alicia turned to go, but Joker's voice at her back stopped her in her tracks.

"Alicia, are you okay? After going to Alchera?" Such concern. She should have expected it after all they'd been through.

"I...I don't know. There aren't any words to describe what I'm feeling in a human language. The closest I can think of is...depression-tinged melancholy. So..short answer, no, I guess?"

He considered for a moment. "Well, I guess it's good to know you're giving their families and friends closure after two years without it."

"Yeah, that's it." Alicia tucked her bangs back with an oddly sad chuckle. This time, she almost made it past the bridge's archway.

"Hope you like your present."

Chapter Text

Dani collapsed on the floor of the cargo bay. They stripped off their helmet and gloves. Their armor was caked in blood and sand. They took a few ragged breaths. When they opened their eyes, Reyes loomed over them.

"What the hell happened out there?"

"Ran out of ammo. Got heroic. Bastards wouldn't die. Don't worry. None of this is mine. That I know of." They thrashed to get into a sitting position. Reyes took a seat beside them. "I have sand in places there should never be sand. God I hate Eladaan."

That shit-eating grin brought them out of their haze. "You love your job."

"I do. It's a pain in the...legs. And arms. And a little in my ass." They unlatched the rest of their armor with a laborious sigh as feeling returned to the tips of their fingers. "I need to clean my armor later, so I'll leave it out for now. Can you carry me to the medbay, babe?"

Concern creased his brow. "How bad was it out there?"

"I could walk if I wanted to." They whined under their breath. "I really don't want to. Please?" Cue the puppy dog eyes.

"Well since you asked so nicely." Reyes stood and then knelt to carry them against his chest. They wrapped their arms and legs around him. He took them to the medbay without another word.

"You're a doll, Rey."

Reyes laid them down gently on the bed. Lexi locked the door behind them so that Dani could take off the undersuit of their armor. He crossed his arms over his chest as they gingerly wriggled out.

"How did this happen?" Lexi asked.

"Butt of a kett rifle. Shit happens."

Reyes chanced a look and regretted it. Dani's right thigh was purple close to the knee. His eyes met theirs.

"Lexi. You forgot to let him out."

"He seemed highly concerned. They will be fine, Reyes. This doesn't happen often."

He felt his fists clench. "I'm getting you a gun with a larger clip."

"We've tried. They won't use it. Dani is unbelievably sentimental about their guns." Lexi massaged lightly into the bruise. Dani hissed through clenched teeth.

"Sonofabitch."

"Doctor," Reyes growled in warning.

"Relax. They're being dramatic. Sounds like somebody else I know."

"It's fine, Rey." Dani leaned back onto their palms. He wasn't really convinced but let it rest. "Also I am not dramatic."

"You acted like you'd been shot when Cora asked why you had the Blasto shirt."

"It's a legitimate film franchise, Lexi. What was I supposed to do?" They crossed their arms over their chest, even if that meant falling back to lay on the bed. "My abs are not having this right now."

"What abs?" Lexi grinned at them as their head came up to glare back.

"Ah fuck you."

"They're fine," Reyes muttered.

"Can we finish this up, doc? I feel like I need ten showers, and I'm tracking sand all over your lovely medbay."

"Now what the hell happened back here?" Lexi muttered as she lifted Dani back to a sitting position to inspect their back. "Some bruising to scar tissue resulting in trauma to the blood vessels."

"Meaning?"

"You're stitches ruptured."

"Shit." Dani twisted around to look but winced halfway through. "Gahhh. That was a bad idea."

Lexi chuckled. "Indeed. Lay on your stomach."

"Yes, ma'am."

Reyes took a seat by their head. Dani reached for one of his hands and squeezed their eyes shut.

"This is gonna hurt. This is gonna hurt. Oh crap. Fuck me." Neither one of them wanted to look back at the doctor redoing the stitches.

"I would, except...you know."

Dani grinned tightly. "Please don't make me laugh. It hurts to laugh right now."

"My sincerest apologies." Dani squeezed his hand hard to keep from laughing at Reyes' sarcasm.

Lexi rubbed a bit of medigel over it to heal it over. "Okay. It's done."

Dani pushed themself up slowly. "Thanks, doc."

"Here, let me get you a robe or something." Lexi reached into a nearby compartment.

"It's nothing everyone hasn't seen before, but okay.." They stretched slightly and accepted the silky robe. After fastening it, they started for the door. Reyes turned at the galley to make them something to eat, but Drack was already holding out a large plate. He nodded in thanks and followed after Dani.

They whipped the robe off as soon as they were past the door and headed for their shower. Reyes locked the door behind and set the food on their desk. He heard the spray of hot water. They were going to be in there for a while.

Chapter Text

Veronica ambled into the kitchen to set the coffee on. She was still getting used to her new leg, and it didn't really calibrate right in the mornings. The apartment was quiet. The air traffic outside her window was still. Everything felt at peace. Like a church mouse, she grabbed a pan from under the stove and eggs from the fridge.

The kitchen came to life with warm light as she worked. Soft lamps set the space aglow. Veronica set a plate of bacon on the microwave to keep it warm. She had her back turned when strong arms hugged around her waist. Kaidan nuzzled at her jaw and neck. She smiled to herself and set her plate to the side to make his.

"Mornin'," he mumbled. Sleep still hung heavy on his grumbly voice.

Small feet pattered on the linoleum floor. Curly bedhead hauled itself up onto a seat at the counter. Veronica passed her little girl a medium sized plate. That biotic hunger would be the death of them all. Theresa rubbed her eye with her fist then set to work on the meal in front of her.

Veronica turned around in Kaidan's arms and pressed a soft kiss to his cheek. He looked a bit put out. "Brush your teeth and we'll talk, dragon breath."

He sighed to himself and kissed her forehead. Mock-disgusted noises sounded from behind her before devolving into laughter. Veronica grinned and took her plate to the seat next to Theresa's. This was more than she could have ever asked for.

Chapter Text

"Mom!"

"Mom!"

"He's copying me!

"He's copying me!"

Alicia sighed to herself. She'd never had the luxury of annoying siblings growing up. Thane was an only child as far as she knew. This responsibility fell to Garrus, the only one with a sister. Little Theresa looked up to him with her arms crossed over her chest. Choran immitated her posture exactly. She looked like she was ready to punch him, but he was about twice he size and strength.

Garrus knelt down to Choran's eye level. "You realize you're the older one, right? You're supposed to be a bit more mature than these."

"She makes it so easy, though."

Theresa pouted. "There's only one way to settle this."

Thane rushed in to hold her back. "No. We are not doing this again." The last time those words were said, she'd headbutted her brother to the floor. "Deep breath. Calm." Theresa booped his nose. He struggled not to smile.

Choran rolled his eyes.

"Careful. Your eyes will get stuck like that." Alicia motioned for Choran to follow her. He obliged and took her hand as she led him out onto the balcony. As the door closed behind them, she examined his resting body language. "Did something happen?"

"Theresa said something really mean to Xayan. I thought I'd...exact a little justice to even the score."

Alicia muttered to herself. "Heavens above, you're just like G Dad." Running a hand through her hair, she considered the situation. "The next time something like that happens, could you tell me instead of getting even?"

"Hah. And what are you going to do about it?"

She fixed him with a hard stare. "Theresa is still learning what is and isn't appropriate. I'm not excusing her behavior, but that's not how we handle it. Do you understand?"

Choran thought for a moment. "Okay. Can I go help with dinner now?"

Alicia let him pass and followed back into the living room. Theresa crawled her way onto her lap as Thane and Garrus started cooking. Choran helped with whatever he could. She turned her attention to her daughter.

"I've been told you were picking on Xayan."

Theresa instantly started crying. She'd seen this before. The products of coming from a subpar family before child services swooped in. She was...less than receptive to any form of criticism. Alicia stroked her hair softly.

"It's okay. You're still learning. What did you say?"

She sniffled. "I...I told him that you love me more."

Alicia sighed. "You know that isn't true." She nodded. "You need to go apologize to him."

"I don't know how to do that." Theresa sat up next to her.

"You can start with 'I'm sorry. What I said was wrong. Mom loves all of us.' Good?"

Theresa hopped up and headed to Xayan's room, wiping her tears as she toddled along. Alicia laid back on the couch. Thane brought her a mug of tea. She smiled and leaned up to kiss his cheek. This felt right.

Chapter Text

Kiari straightened her scarf again. She fidgeted with the sleeves of her jacket. Liam and Jaal sat across from her. Her foot tapped against the floor of the shuttle.

"Ki."

She looked up at Liam with a light hum.

"What's up with you?"

The beat of Kiari's foot stopped as she realized what she'd been doing. She blushed but kept her jaw clenched. "Sorry."

Jaal held out his hand for hers. She obliged. "There's no need to be nervous. They're going to love you."

Kiari saw the truth in his eyes. She could almost believe it. With a deep breath, she squeezed his hand. The shuttle landed outside the Ama Darav residence. Jaal tugged them both along. He opened the door for them and led the way forth. A woman emerged from a deeper room in the house.

"Jaal? Jaal!" She ran to him and hugged him. "Wait. Is there bad news?"

He pat her shoulder. "No. The pathfinder and crew are interested in where I grew up. Kiari, Liam, this is my true mother, Sahuna Ama Darav."

Kiari rushed forwards to hug her as well. "Nice to finally meet you." She accidentally lifted his mother up a little. She set Sahuna back on her feet with an apologetic pat on her arm.

Sahuna smiled at both of them. "Jaal's told me how much he admires you two."

Liam crossed his arms over his chest and shot Jaal an amused grin. "Really?" Jaal glanced away in embarrassment.

"He's my favorite. Smart, loyal, kind. A great shot. Writes poetry. Sews-"

"M-mother." Kiari giggled behind her hand at the exchange.

Sahuna waved it off. "I'm late for a Resistance meeting." She stretched her arms across all of them. "Stay strong, and clear." She passed between them, lightly brushing their shoulders.

Kiari turned back to Jaal. "Your mother's in the Resistance?"

He chuckled. "Yes." He leaned in conspiratorially for both of them to hear. "And..every child is her favorite." The trio walked into the main living room without further delay. "Everyone! This is Kiari and Liam."

The latter interjected enthusiastically. "Hello!" The form was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people.

"Look what the karken dragged in!"

"Welcome back!"

Jaal gently helped the pair of them along with a hand at each other their backs. "This is where I spent most of my days growing up." Kiari zoned out from all the names due to the sheer volume of noise. Liam quickly took her hand to get her to Jaal's room. "My tiny sanctuary."

Kiari paused a moment. "I'm good," she whispered as Liam tapped over her knuckles. He kept a steady beat as she came back to herself. She tried to take off her scarf. It all felt like too much, as though the fabric were strangling her. Liam unwound the scarf from her neck, letting her breath and relax. "I'm...not used to so many people, but..they're nice. Really...nice."

Jaal held her shoulder. "If you're ever overwhelmed, you can tell me."

She smiled to reassure him. He dropped his hand and went about clearing a space for them on his bed. "Oh no. Who put this here?"

Liam sat on one side of Jaal. "Schematics..of?"

"When I was seven, my aunt stole a kett weapon for me, so I took it apart..to learn."

Kiari peered over at the box. "And that is..was, a karken."

"Pet karken. ...He died, so I also...took him apart."

"To...learn?" Liam shrugged.

Jaal looked sidelong at him. "Why not?"

Kiari took a seat to Jaal's opposite side.

"I don't show people these things." He took both of their hands, one in each of his. "You..make my heart sing. ...I want us to be together. All of us, if possible."

Liam squeezed his hand. Kiari squeezed the other. Jaal squeezed back.

Kiari offered a small, quiet smile. "All agreed, then?"

Jaal laughed. "Yes!" He paused to look to both of them. He brought one hand up to Liam's cheek. "I adore you." They kissed softly. Liam took a handful of Jaal's rofjin. "And you."

Kiari reciprocated with light fingers tracing the scar on his cheek. She couldn't help but grin a bit dopily when they parted. Jaal stood, taking both of their hands to help them up.

"Ah, let me show you one more thing you might like. Please, lie down."

Still a bit high on the kissing, Kiari gently crumpled to the floor. Liam laid down beside her. Jaal flicked on a display from the wall panel near his desk. He came to lay down beside Liam. Kiari was instantly captivated.

"Beautiful." Liam and Kiari laughed at the surround sound effect.

"You made that?" Kiari asked.

"Long ago. It's not..accurate. More of a dream, really. Just one more thing I want to...take apart, and figure out."

Liam smiled. "Aww, Jaal."

They each reach from the hand closest to them.

"And now I have people to do it with."