“Let’s go have an adventure!”
The first time Saren had said the words to Faith, it had been mocking, filled with disdain and heavy amounts of sarcasm. They had watched an old Earth vid together, much at Faith’s insistence, and the protagonist had used that line multiple times to encourage his group of people into more and more dangerous situations.
As Faith stared at the towering mountain of fortifications and turrets that made up their current target, she silently swore never to give Saren that kind of verbal ammunition to use against her ever again.
* * *
”It’ll be an adventure.”
Saren grinned impishly at his human companion, enjoying her discomfort far too much. Faith glared at the Turian, silently hating him in that moment as she glanced down the cliff’s edge. The ground was frighteningly far away, lost in the swaying branches of the forest below. Shaking her head, she backed away.
“Oh no. I’m crazy, but I’m not that crazy. I’ll take the long way around. There’s a path leading down the other side, and it looks a whole lot more inviting. You can throw yourself off the cliff if you really want to. I’ll meet you down there via the safer route.” Faith glanced at the repelling equipment with disgust. Saren gave her an overly-dramatic expression of false sympathy.
“Poor, timid little human. I’m sorry, I hadn’t realized we needed to cater to your every whim. By all means, let me call a limousine to carry you in safety and comfort to the base we’re trying to sneak up on.” Saren bit off each word at the end of the sentence, a tone that brooked no nonsense. Faith seethed at him as he grabbed her by the belt, jerked her forward, and prepped her line.
“Tell me, is there any reason I shouldn’t cut your rope and just be rid of you?” Faith asked, only half-serious. Saren gave her a grin as he roughly smacked her cheek.
“Same reason I won’t cut yours.”
“And that is?” Faith crossed her arms, watching as the Spectre swung over the edge, settling himself for the long descent. He grinned back at her, motioning with his head towards the numerous pieces of equipment they were leaving at their base camp.
“I don’t want to have to carry all that equipment back to the ship by myself.”
With a sharp motion, he indicated she was to join him over the ledge. With a groan, Faith gingerly lowered herself next to him, holding onto the ledge with a death grip. Saren grinned at her.
“I hope I remembered to affix your line properly. It’s been ever so long since I’ve done this, and I’d hate to see the hole you’d make after dropping from this height.”
Faith swore long and bitterly the entire way down.
* * *
“The visual pleasantness of the ‘please’ will not sway my answer.”
“It’ll be an adventure.”
“Oh, in that case - NO!”
Faith watched as Saren stormed off, disappointed, but also slightly triumphant at having made him lost his cool. The fact that she’d been able to use his favorite mocking phrase against him was a bonus.
* * *
“I’m not liking this adventure anymore.”
Faith whimpered, eyes squeezed shut as she pressed a hand to her bleeding side. A lucky shot from a high-powered sniper rifle had torn down her shields in a single hit. Though she’d been quick to move back into cover, another enemy had rounded the corner at that exact moment and fired a few rounds at her. Saren had riddled the attacker with more shots than Faith would have guessed were necessary, then had cast a singularity above the sniper, pulling them off their perch and allowing them to fall to the ground in a wet splat. Faith hit her medi-gel, breathing slightly easier as the cool rush of healing fluid hit her system, temporarily numbing the pain down to a dull roar. As she struggled to sit back up, she was surprised to feel Saren’s hand on her back, pushing her back down.
“You’re bleeding too much for that to be a minor hit. Lay back down and let me look at it.” His voice was firm, but Faith swore there was a note of gentle concern in his subvocals. Must be the blood loss, she told herself as she lay back down.
“Are we safe here?” She asked, glancing around the room.
Saren snorted, shaking his head as he undid the armor on her side and cut away the under suit with his boot knife.
“No place is ever safe.”
* * *
“Does this constitute an adventure?”
Faith side-eyed Saren, her nose wrinkling in disgust despite the breathing filter on her helmet. The scent wafting down the maintenance pipes smelled strongly of sewage, dead bodies, drugs, and something else Faith couldn’t identify. Saren shuddered, turning his helmeted head away to cough thickly.
“I warned you: Batarian run whore houses are horrible places. However, since the rules are more lax here, it attracts a certain type of patronage. From what I was able to learn, there’s no size limitations for the whores at this particular establishment.” Saren glanced delicately at Shepard, noting the confused tilt to her head and suddenly hating himself for having to break her innocence in such a horrific way. “It...ahem….it means there are ladies and gentlemen at this place who will service unusually large species.”
Saren shifted uncomfortably.
“Oh.” Faith jumped slightly after a moment as realization dawned. She seemed to turn inwards slightly, the meaning of his words striking home. “Oh.”
Saren nodded. “Welcome to the wonderful occupation of the Spectres.”
“Is it too late to quit?” Shepard asked halfheartedly, gagging. Saren snorted.
“If I have to go into that horrible place, so do you. That’s what friends are for, or so Nihlus keeps telling me. Just try not to look into any rooms where you hear someone droning ‘with increasing pleasure: yes, right there, that’s the spot’.”
Faith sighed heartily, glancing back at their way into the building. Turning back to Saren, she lifted her fists in a display of half-hearted enthusiasm.
* * *
Saren leaned against the cool, metallic bulkhead of his bedroom. His entire body shook from the cold, his hide clenching painfully at the unusual abuse of it’s temperature receptors. The bathroom looked so inviting in so many ways, the door standing open with puffs of steam billowing out. He’d been enjoying the shower, the hot water caressing him gently, but it wasn’t the harsh scalding of the water that had caused him to flee to the relative safety of his room.
He’d allowed himself to become distracted, more interested in watching her move and run and twist and dodge than he had been in watching the terrain. Maybe if he hadn’t allowed himself to become so enamored with her, if he had maintained rigid control over his emotions as he had been trained, he might have noticed the unusual terrain of the Thresher Maw nest. The multiple juveniles had quickly destroyed what should have been a simple mission, and had almost killed Shepard as well. Saren felt his chest grown heavy at the thought.
She had always taken such good care of her skin, Saren mused, her only scars easily covered with a touch of make-up. She was considered quite lovely to many - he wasn’t blind after all - and had become even more popular as a model whenever they had enough down time between missions at the Citadel for a quick photo shoot. And now, because of his carelessness, she now sported a large, rippling acid burn across her left side, arm, and part of her back.
He’d been so dutiful in making sure her bandages had been changed frequently to keep away infection, cleaning the wound and slathering it with medi-gel and other salves to help it heal with minimal scarring. But despite his efforts, it was clear there would be a very visible scar - a permanent reminder of his failure.
As he’d wrapped her injuries that first night, he had vowed passionately never to allow his unwanted feelings to resurface, determined to bury his unwanted desires before they could allow anyone else around him to be hurt. But his years of meditation and mental training melted away as his rough, taloned fingers touched her smooth, cool skin. Her very scent broke the walls holding back the unwanted thoughts, and suddenly he found himself unable to do anything without thinking of her. He found himself giving voice to sorry excuses to help her with everything, despite the fact that there was little muscle damage and Shepard was as able a woman as he had ever met.
Now he found himself staring into the bathroom, the true horror of his uncontrollable lust crashing over him in waves of self-loathing and disgust. Inside the mist, he saw a movement of red and his throat went dry. Inside was Shepard, her movements as fluid as the water which trickled over her skin. He could tell from her silhouette that she was trying to see where he had gone, wondering why he’d so abruptly abandoned her after making such a show of insistence on caring for her while she recovered from her injuries. Injuries he had caused with his carelessness, his memories brutally reminded him.
“Saren?” Shepard called out, her voice running ghostly fingers of guilt and desire up his spine. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I just...needed air.” Saren huffed, shaking his head. He almost keened at how far he had fallen. Once the most controlled, disciplined Turian - now he was worse than a desperate teenager harboring his first love. Saren was so busy hating himself that he failed to hear the water turn off, nor the light steps of the human female as she approached him, water dripping from her every curve.
“Hey, don’t lie to me, Saren.” Shepard smiled up at him, putting a gentle hand against his mandible and moving his head so he’d be forced to look at her. The affection and acceptance that he saw mirrored in her eyes only made him hate himself more. He hated the way he leaned into her touch, like it was the most natural thing to do. He hated that his hands moved of their own volition to rest on the unscarred crest of her hips, pulling her forward. He hated the way his heart rate increased, the flood of hormones rushing with pure ecstasy through his system. He hated the way his groin plates shifted as she stood close enough that he could feel the heat radiating off her skin.
But more than anything, he hated himself for the fact that he didn’t hate it at all.
Shepard continued to smile at him, slowly raising onto the balls of her feet to meet him as his head lowered towards hers, gently pushing against his forehead. They held that pose for several minutes, Saren’s muscles slowly unwinding as his guilt faded to be replaced by wonder at this incredible creature standing before him. Of all the things he had encountered in his years throughout the Galaxy, he never would have envisioned a human could be so...perfect.
After a moment, Shepard pulled away, and Saren felt a momentary pang of regret, believing it was over. Instead, Shepard’s hand found his, gently pulling him with her as she backed towards his bed. Saren hesitated, fear and guilt pausing his steps. Shepard just smiled at him.
“C’mon, soldier. Let’s have an adventure.”
Saren couldn’t have stopped the laugh that bubbled from his throat if he had tried.
* * *
Saren held Shepard’s limp, wrinkled hand, his cracked and worn thumb gently caressing the paper-thin skin of his mate. Knowing she lay lifeless and unmoving in a bed was more than he could bare, remembering a time when she had vibrated with energy, almost glowing like a fiery sun. Over the many years, he had watched her grow more beautiful and elegant, even when fine gray hairs had appeared at her temples and her smiles lingered in the lines by her eyes. Always she had remained vibrant and energetic, making him feel younger despite their age difference.
And then age had struck her down, and there was no recovering from it. Her lungs struggled to pull in enough breath, and she had been confined to a bed long enough that her muscles were gone, leaving behind the hollow shell of the woman she had once been. Even so, Saren never left her side, talking to her and touching her and reminding her that he still loved her. Though he had long since lost his sight, he never failed to tell her how beautiful she still was.
“Mari and Decennia have been winning at bridge every week since you stopped going.” Saren flicked his worn mandibles in a slight grin. “We need to start going back so we can put them in their proper place. Devinius said he managed to order some of those chocolate puddings you love so much. They should be here in another couple of days. Got to take care of the poor levo-girls. You, Anria, Vela, and…”
Saren paused, frowning. “I can never remember that other girl’s name. What was I saying again, dear?” Saren tilted his head, trying to remember. Why was it so easy to remember something from eighty years ago but he couldn’t remember something that just happened? “I’m only 121, I shouldn’t be this forgetful. We’ve both got another good 20 to 30 years in us. Once you’re up and about, we’ll go on that trip to Earth and visit Garrus and your sister. We haven’t seen them in so long. I heard they have yet another great-great-grandchild on the way. We really need to get on our own youngsters; we don’t have nearly enough little ones to spoil.”
The machines hooked up to his wife beeped steadily, unchanged for - how long had it been? It seemed like it had been awhile, though Saren swore it had to have been recent. Shepard never stayed down for long; always bouncing back lively and impish and ready to cause trouble. When they’d confined her to a wheelchair, she’d torn hell through the hallways, laughing maniacally while the aides chased the crazy human down. Saren had laughed so hard he’d collapsed.
Saren’s mind wandered as the aides came in, whispering to each other quietly as they went about tending to his mate. He felt a dreamy lassitude pull him towards sleep, memories of Shepard’s deep red hair billowing in the breeze like a banner. It was a small wonder why the Shepard twins demanded such respect when their very appearance tasted of great battles and victory.
A slight snore announced to the aides that Shepard’s husband had fallen asleep, and they smiled in understanding.
A change in something small woke Saren a few hours later. Despite having been retired for several decades, his senses were still sensitive to those minute signs of danger. Turning his head around, he sniffed at the air, listening intently for any sign that something was wrong. The sound of his wife’s heart monitor beeped steadily for several moments, and he was about to dismiss it when he realized the sounds were slowing, the beeps growing further apart as his wife’s heart...
Terror filled Saren as he stiffened, groping blindly for his wife’s hand. A few aides entered the room, though there was no rush or urgency to their movements. A sense of calm acceptance seemed to radiate from them, as one of them put a comforting hand on his shoulder. Irritably, he shook it off.
“Damn you, do something! It’s too soon!” Saren bellowed, his voice still powerful after all the years. The orderlies glanced at each other, one of them touching Saren on the forearm.
“Arterius, sir, don’t you remember? We spoke about this last week. Your wife is-”
“No, dammit, no! She’s alive! She has to stay living! We promised to stay together!” Saren panicked, his throat constricting. He ignored them as they mentioned something about a ‘do not resuscitate’ form he and his wife had apparently signed a while ago. He never would have done such a thing! Gripping his wife’s cold hand, he kept shouting at them to do something as he felt her slipping away. Desperate, he shook her hand, keening in distress as he failed to wake her.
“Shepard, please, you can’t do this. You can’t leave. Please.” Saren wailed, his head dropping to rest on the bed. “Please, meime, don’t go on an adventure without me.”
Saren continued begging and keening long after the beeping had turned into a single wail of loss.