Author: LawGrad07 PM
A different take on how Thane's romance could have played out through ME3. I am a believer in happy endings, love and the right to live. I will not, therefore, let Bioware simply kill the Drell. Not on my, or my Shepard's, watch.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Hurt/Comfort - Shepard (F) & Thane K. - Chapters: 15 - Words: 144,506 - Reviews: 93 - Favs: 112 - Follows: 134 - Updated: 05-13-13 - Published: 03-27-12 - id: 7964055
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: Everything recognisable is Bioware's. Everything else is mine.
A/N: In my humble opinion, Bioware lost out on a massive opportunity to learn more about the Drell when they decided to end Thane's story in a tragedy. I myself can't stand tragedies, even ones which provide 'honourable deaths' for beloved characters. Thus, while I respect those fans who feel Thane's end was appropriate, and while I don't argue that Bioware's decision was wrong (it is their story after all, even though I feel they handled Thane's aspect woefully, and I mean WOEFULLY), I reject their reality and substitute my own. One which is based on hope, love, hardships and well earned happy endings.
This piece could well end up being one of many on the subject of the dear Drellish Sere and his mate. Do tell me what you think if you can spare a moment. I value ideas and constructive critique most highly.
In which Shepard hears the words she never thought she would
When word of the attack on Earth reached me I feared the worst. It gladdens me beyond calculable measure to know that you are unharmed and that this message will reach you unimpeded. During your confinement the Alliance was less than accommodating of such things. Forgive the brevity of this missive. My time is rarely my own now and my mind is unfocused with worry and lingering doubts as to your safety. Please, when you have time, pay Huerta Memorial Hospital a visit. I await you there, and have news I must share with you.
Such was the message that propelled Commander Amial Shepard, freshly arrived aboard the Normandy from a trip out on the Citadel's Presidium Commons, back through the docking bay at a speed no God in its right mind would design the human body to withstand. Narrowly avoiding a haste-caused-four-way-pile-up with a pair of Turians and a hapless Volus, she leapt between the just opened doors of the elevator nearest to the Normandy's dock and slammed an open palm onto the 'Presidium Level - Huerta Memorial Hospital' button.
In that moment, as she wheezed and jittered and the lift's doors closed, nothing in her world was happening fast enough. The trip felt hours long, not the scant two minutes or so it actually took. She itched with tension, pacing back and forth as the lift ferried her on her way. Caught up in the need to simply get to him.
She'd known, when she had given herself up to the Alliance months back, that Thane's illness would soon require medical intervention. Mordin had managed to sneak word to her just after she disembarked that he planned to take him to the Citadel in an effort to stabilise his condition, but she had heard nothing since.
A deeply discontented growl of frustration echoed through Shepard's little metal box as it slowed to a crawl on the approach to her destination. Even with his note, she knew next to nothing about how he was doing. How his condition had progressed or if he had been able to find treatment. She raked her fingers through her hair as these thoughts came and went, poking the 'Huerta Memorial' button again in an effort to speed the lift up.
Things had never felt more urgent than they did now.
When the elevator finally opened its doors outside of Huerta Memorial, Shepard was through them, across the courtyard and heading into the patient lounge before her mind caught on to the fact that she'd even moved. She scanned the room as she walked, searching for him, observing the crowds and wondering, in the back of her mind, at how the number of distressed refugees taking shelter here seemed to have doubled in the month since her last visit.
Outside of that increase however, the room was much the same as it had always been. The same crowded space, coloured in sterile whites and greys and tinged with the smell of antiseptic. The same rows of chairs, plastic and metal and uncomfortable as sin. The same floor to ceiling windows affording a view, to the afflicted, of the comings and goings of the well.
But no Thane.
As of yet, no Thane.
Shepard turned in a careful circle once she reached the room's centre, seeking any sign that might hint at his presence. The glint of light hitting black leather. Scales of his particular shade of green. At first she found nothing, but luckily she was also being sought.
It was the weight of his gaze that allowed her to find him. She felt it as keenly as she would have felt him laying his hands on her shoulders, and turned a final time towards the corridor leading into the patient's wing to find him watching her, wonder stealing across his face at her sight.
"Siha!" he called, but she was already moving, weaving through the crowd and reaching for him, when she was close enough, with both hands. He caught them in his by reflex alone, his expression turning from joyous relief to complete, almost severe concentration and concern and she knew, just knew, that he was comparing what he saw of her now with his endless stock of perfectly recalled memories of her. Assessing her condition the best way he could at this early point of their reacquaintance.
In those brief, still moments she did her best to do the same, taking him in quickly. He looked alert but tired. His eyes were bright and moved over her form quickly, the mind behind them almost visibly working as he explored her. His grip on her hands was as firm but gentle as it always had been and, but for a distinct tightness in his shoulders and the faint, almost imperceptible shifts in position he made as he stood before her, he appeared as graceful and poised as he ever had.
After five tense breaths worth of intense scrutiny he seemed to come to a conclusion, nodding fractionally to himself and gathering her against his body without need for further preamble.
"You came so swiftly" he rumbled, feeling Shepard curl herself against him as she murmured a vague affirmative. "I had feared the worst."
"Ohhh, don't you worry about me" she whispered, discontent to have the entire corridor hear her but needing, at the same time, to soothe his fears as best she could. They parted just enough to be able to catch each other's eyes and shared, after a moment of simply looking upon one another once more, a deeply affectionate, deeply loving smile.
"But Gods I'm so very glad you're safe" Thane mustered, speaking as softly as his Siha had and for much the same reason. An intrinsically private man, he found even this, a necessary and wanted display of affection, difficult to achieve without some measure of unease about it being visible to all and sundry. After all, one cannot be properly watchful of one's surroundings when wrapped up in one's mate.
Almost as though she read his mind, Shepard glanced at the rooms to their immediate left and right, a brow quirked curiously.
"Are you allowed to take me home, or is that against regulations?" she asked, revelling in both the grin her humour earned her and the gentlemanly offer of an arm she received just after it.
"This place will never be my home, Siha" her mate noted, accepting her hand at the crook of his elbow and leading her at a notably careful pace along the corridor towards the room he had been apportioned upon his arrival. "But I dare say, with you here, it feels a little more accommodating."
"I'll bet it does" she chuckled, noticing but not commenting on the slight awkwardness...stiffness...in her mate's usually fluid gait. It's presence both did and didn't surprise her. He was terribly ill, much as she tried to ignore that fact, and was entitled to his aches and pains. It pained her deeply to witness though, and she bit down on the inside of her cheek to keep herself from letting that pain become visible to him. Today was about him, not her emotional issues, and she was determined to spend every last second she could with him enjoying his company and having him enjoy hers.
They reached his room after a couple of minutes of walking through bustling halls. A wall of dry, warm air hit them as they entered and, if for nothing else, Shepard thanked whatever Gods may be for the hospital's ability to cater to her mate's distinct needs. As she looked around the room she had to bite her cheek again to keep from welling up. While it was otherwise a nondescript hospital room, half of the back wall comprised of floor to ceiling windows and affording both 'daylight' and a rather fetching view of the Presidium, there were little touches of Thane everywhere. One of his coats hung on a hook on the right-most wall. The sheets on his bed were those which they had once shared on the Normandy, as was the rippling and dimpled velvet blanket folded neatly at its foot and the pillows at its head. She recognised every one of the slender prayer books that filled the single shelf above the bed, and on the bedside table sat a holo-frame which was cycling slowly through pictures she had taken throughout her time on the SR-2.
"That's mine.." she murmured faintly, gesturing to the frame and cursing herself inwardly for having to clear her throat to keep her voice from cracking. "It was on my desk in my quarters before I..left.."
"I couldn't let the Alliance take it from you" Thane explained, drawing her close to him again once the door hissed closed behind them. "They are your memories, Siha. Yours. Not theirs. They had no right to them, so I took them for safe keeping."
He knew from how she embraced him that his doing so had caused no offence, but he had to ask, if only for the pleasure of hearing her disabuse him.
"Was I wrong to-"
"No" she said, shaking her head slightly and swallowing through the tightness in her throat. "Of course not. They're yours too. Just like the rest of this.." She gave a mild gesture to the blanket, the pillows and the sheets before again distracting herself from the emotional turmoil welling up within her by burying herself within her mate's embrace. He welcomed her with an ease that was frankly startling by comparison to their moment in the corridor, meeting the weight she leant into him with his own and giving a deep, thoroughly gratified and entirely Drellish rumble of pleasure as their lips met for the first time in over six months.
Shepard, having never heard quite this flavour of expression from him before, gave a faint start when it reached both her ears and her skin. It sounded like a cross between a resonant hum and a low buzz, and was so close to the edge of her perceptible range of hearing that she actually had to work to hear it at all. Goosebumps came up along her arms in response to it, but that mattered for nothing.
It felt so damn good to be home.
"Just like I am" she breathed once their lips eased apart, appending her thoughts about precisely what in the room was Thane's before going up on her toes to give her brow lightly to his. As he pressed back into her with equal pressure, she felt more than heard his answering chuckle and redoubled their embrace in response to it. They remained thus for a long moment, each revelling in the presence of the other, before she noticed something about him that she never had before.
It was his breathing.
Struck by this oddity she nestled herself closer against him, taking a moment to suckle a gentle kiss to his throat simply because she was able to and loved him, and concentrated on the feeling of him breathing against her neck and beneath her hands.
After the hitched gasp and answering rumble of contentment her kiss drew from him, she detected a deep, even breath taken in...
Followed by a slow exhalation...
"I missed you" she said, her voice soft and almost delicate as she selected another spot upon his throat, another scale which stood out from the rest at that moment, and gave it a kiss of equal tenderness to the first. She was rewarded with another of his bassy hums, and let herself gasp as he returned the endearment at the point where neck and shoulder meet; the loose collar of the t-shirt she wore eased out of the way with a practiced push of his nose.
"And I you" he replied, inhaling deeply against her skin, testing its scent and comparing it reflexively to the layers of memory he had built up around that single detail of her person.
And again...she felt it...The same pattern. That deep breath in...The slow exhalation following it...It was the same on both counts as those that had preceded it. Easy and comfortable and...slow, but not overtly 'controlled' in the way his breaths had been when she first knew him.
And again...Easy in...Easy out.
Now if it had been a single paired inhalation and exhalation she wouldn't have noticed it. Everyone takes a deep breath now and then, even people like Thane who, she knew, would have breathing issues until the day she finally lost him.
But again? A second time? A third and fourth and fifth and counting? A breathing pattern so out of character in comparison to that she remembered as his that it would give her pause?
Could it be coincidence?
A good day?
She had to know.
"Thane, are y-" she began but he was faster. Faster, and seemingly possessed of a preternatural sense of the direction her mind had taken. Perhaps he had noticed how her hands had spanned his back, feeling him as he took those even, steady breaths. Or perhaps he simply knew her that well.
"I have news for you" he murmured, affection and the beginnings of nervous excitement colouring his tone.
Hearing this her stomach knotted, hard. The last time 'news' was shared between them, he had told her that his worsening condition would require medical intervention during her absence.
"You mentioned that in your message" she said, swallowing again to try to make the tightness in her throat ease but failing admirably. "What is it?"
He watched her face for a long moment before speaking, weighing his words carefully. "Do you recall the tissue samples Professor Solus took from us? His interest in my illness was piqued by an advance made by the Illuminated Primacy, and he requested samples of lung tissue, amongst other things, to facilitate an experiment he had planned."
"Of course" Shepard replied, tension owning her as soon as he mentioned Mordin. She had raised hell and high-water searching for any flicker of hope that might give Thane a chance at a longer life. Even the possibility of a possibility of something would have sufficed. Anything for a way out of the death that terrified them both but seemed so inevitable.
The fight had seemed lost.
And then Mordin happened.
And the idea of engineering a genetic resistance to Keprals Syndrome was born.
As soon as it had occurred to him Mordin had dragged her, Thane and Dr Chakwas into his lab and just...starting talking...
"Cumulative exposure to adverse conditions brings on Keprals Syndrome in patient. As a result, lungs begin to degrade. Lungs then get inflamed. Keprals a persistent condition. Long term. Instigates chronic lung blood vessel disease. Chronic disease causes hyper-activation of immune system. Immune system attacks other blood vessels which results in blood vessel damage. This in turn causes end organ damage. End organ damage causes damage to organs outside lungs, hence lesions appearing in stomach...heart..."
He took a breath, just to make sure his guests were following.
Shepard would be the first to admit that she was struggling to keep up. She knew that Mordin was describing Keprals and how the condition progressed, but how all that related to something that could help Thane was beyond her. Dr Chakwas on the other hand seemed more on top of things and eagerly waved him on, whipping out a pad to take notes and watching the scholarly Salarian with rapt interest.
With a sniff and a nod Professor Solus concluded,
"Replacing lungs with resistance carrying cloned set destroys seat of illness. Without susceptible lungs, illness cannot manifest. Require tissue donation from candidate whose species is naturally resistant to disorder. Humans a viable candidate. Asari also. Levo-amino basis for DNA is what's important. Use of immunosuppressant formulae along with retrovirus to eradicate 'Keprals antigen'..." he air-quoted those words, smiling at his knowledge of what he perceived to be a gesture his human counterparts would be familiar with,
"...could...certainty impossible, but could..." he turned to Thane, "help you."
Coming back to herself, Shepard tried to answer her beau's question more fully, "He..he said he wanted to do some work with cloned tissue but I didn't..he didn't.." but sputtered to a stop when a faint but knowing smile flickered onto his lips. She had to try and ease her throat a second time before asking,
"Professor Solus and I visited the Citadel and its hospitals, seeking an appropriate facility in which to deal with my condition. Huerta Memorial, it goes without saying, was that which showed the most promise. I have spent the past six months here, receiving treatment as an in-patient" Thane explained, his voice becoming just as tremulous as his Siha's was. "With all lines of communication blocked..I couldn't get word of our success to you."
Shepard went cold, adrenaline flooding her system. "Word of your what?" she rasped, her chest working as she tried to force herself to breathe despite the stranglehold shock and disbelief had on her system. So used was she to expecting the worst that talk of anything like 'success' rang alarm bells at a deafening volume.
Her mate's response was measured, thoughtful, but wordless. He reached, gathered her already shaking fingers in his and guided them up to the top button of the shirt he wore. The garment was light and cotton, made for comfort and so entirely unlike his usual leathers that Shepard wondered how she'd been so distracted by his presence that she hadn't actually noticed it until now.
"Open them, Siha" he prompted gently when her stunned stillness grew long, his words drawing her eyes to his. There were several casts of seriousness in his expression, but she could have read him in this moment even without the benefit of sight. His gaze carried the same weight and wealth of implications that the action of placing her hands where he had did.
A brief moment of gaping later, she stuttered into action. The first button fell to her persistence... then the second...then the third. As she worked Thane's hands, which by the fall of the fourth button shook as much as hers did, found her elbows as she undid the fifth and stopped, the shirt falling open, revealing to her now tear-glassed eyes what it had concealed.
It was so thin it resembled a paper cut, but it was there. She could see it. A scar, still fresh enough to be faintly red against the rich and vital green of his scales, split his chest down the middle. Seeing it knocked Shepard's breath out of her and made her throat knot as hard as her stomach had a moment prior. She barely managed to force out a stilted "Wha-?" before she had to swallow, her throat so dry that it hurt to do so.
"You can't b-" she hitched, her fingers clenching in the open folds of his shirt, "serious..How di-..What?"
Thane's expression wavered briefly as he recalled a memory to illuminate his struggling mate. Not only would its recitation be the most accurate way of relaying the information to her, but he could not fake the clarity with which he spoke when recounting a memory. Could not lie to her through them or doctor them to please or comfort. She knew this, and he hoped that knowledge would help her accept what he himself was only just beginning to truly believe.
He met her eyes as the memory came, speaking it aloud for her.
"Professor Solus approaches..my latest test results in hand..'Congratulations Sere' he says, clicking through his notes efficiently..transposing them on the board for me to see.. 'Can confirm treatment a continuing success. No evidence of Keprals resurgence. Transplanted lungs clear and healthy. Terminal prognosis retracted. Overridden. Contact Shepard. Must tell her'.."
Shepard stood frozen in place as Thane slipped free of his memory and once again became animated in her arms. Reliving the moment for her brought his own relief and elation back as keenly as he had felt them when Mordin had shared his findings with him, and he clutched at his Siha as fervently as she did at him. Needing the contact in equal measure. He watched her closely, memorising every detail. How her jaw worked soundlessly as she tried to put voice to thoughts moving too quickly for her to catch. How she searched his face with the same protective, now panicked, eyes that he had so missed during their enforced absence from each other. How her breathing quickened beyond her capacity to calm it and how deeply she trembled against his body as he held her close.
When she finally spoke, the words came out like scattershot.
"You...I don't...Resur-..Oh my..Overri- You mean you're n-..Not goin'..t..to.." her voice became hoarse as she spoke and she fought herself bitterly to keep from weeping all over him. She shook her head sharply in an effort to clear it then focused on Thane's face again, her hands scrabbling up to cup his jaw.
"You tell me yourself" she said, the words more or less a pained groan. "I don't want to hear Mordin. I need to hear you. Have.." her voice failed her again, faltering over the questions she never thought she'd get to ask. She regrouped quickly, managing to force enough words out for her mate to follow her thinking and reply without needing complete sentences to guide him.
"Mordin created the..." Keprals resistant lungs he told us he was experimenting with?
"From the tissue I...we..." donated to make the cloning possible?
"And you...you...they're...here?" She managed to touch shock-numbed fingers to his chest, indicating the scaring. Thane took a half step forward and leant into her touch slightly, encouraging it by implication.
"Yes" he said, giving a slight nod.
Hearing this, Shepard's face began to crumple, fat tears escaping and rolling down her cheeks as the reality of the situation began to sink in. When her beau leant and kissed one of the offending droplets away, another of his buzzing grumbles escaping him as he did, she almost lost what little composure she had left. She had a final question though. Just one more. One final answer she had to hear before she'd let herself start believing. Three simple words that sounded, to Thane's ears, like they pained her to speak.
"Are you sick?"
He paused briefly, knowing that he would later need to clarify that his treatments were ongoing and would be for the foreseeable future, but he knew her meaning. She wasn't asking if he was at his best, if his long period of illness had left him unscathed or if he was free of the need for medications to help his body recover from the traumas it had been through, both from his illness and the treatments he had been subject to in being rid of it . She was asking if he was dying, and to that, he had an answer which needed no clarification.
"No love" he said, shifting his grip on her when she tensed at his words and doing his best not to succumb to the remembered and still present relief he felt at being able to say these things, "I'm not."
For Shepard though, succumbing was not an option. Her higher functions went out like a light as soon as that 'No' was spoken, and she stared wide-eyed at him for a long moment before a splutter of laughter escaped her, a broad and entirely dumbstruck smile curving her gaping lips. The laugh was brief and sharp and she looked almost surprised that it had come from her at first. Another burst soon followed it though, then another, and then a fourth, this one coming up around a word.
"I-" she croaked, clutching his shirt in both hands as the raspy bursts of laughter began to be edged by tears.
"I can't-" Her legs were starting to go, she could feel it and Thane could too, his arms tightening around her in response, halting her descent towards the ground before it truly began. "..Can't.." She tried again, dragging in a sharp breath that ended in a coughed sob and quickly dropping her gaze to his throat and upper chest. Even with her beau, she was uncomfortable being seen to cry openly. He was persistent though, dipping his head slightly to try and catch her eyes.
"Siha.." he tried, unperturbed by how she turned her face away at his first attempt. He knew the feelings she had now. Disbelief and relief warring for dominance. Truthfully he had his moments himself, when he thought he had imagined the past six months. Now though was not one of those times. This revelation was for her. He would witness it. Cause it even. And would help her through it with all the tender care she had once showed him in his darkest days.
Cunningly and with assurance shored by more than a little experience of riding this woman's emotional highs and lows, he changed tack, dipping his head again but this time using her face-name to call to her. He hoped its relative rarity compared to his repeated and loving use of her soul-name, 'Siha', would catch her attention.
There was a pause...a silent moment...and then a whimper from somewhere between his love's chest and his own that sounded suspiciously like 'Mhhm?'
There you are
He raised a hand carefully, slowly enough that its appearance by her face wouldn't startle her, and stroked the back of his fused fingers along her damp cheek. When he was rewarded by another tinny whimper, he made his tone coaxing and soft.
"Ami..look at me love" he said, touching her jaw in the hopes of coaxing her to do as he bade her to.
After a protracted moment, her eyes met his and she stared. Her gaze was resolute and focused, but the calm she was still trying to portray and maintain was betrayed by the wetness on her cheeks and how her lips and chin quivered with the effort not to weep.
It took her a full thirty seconds to collect enough breath to speak. She had wanted to say something joyous; something that reflected the elation she felt at having her paralysing worry for his wellbeing eased. What she blurted out though was nothing of the kind. It was small, petty even, and a reflection of the very private agony she had nursed for over a year concerning his worsening condition and what, up until two minutes ago, had been a certain goodbye.
"..Don't you leave me.."
It should have shamed her, talking like that. Letting him see her like this. It should have been painful to her pride...but it wasn't. It felt cathartic. The weight in her chest, having spoken it aloud, was easing, even as her tears fell and her breath became choked sobs.
His urgency quickened by her obvious distress, relief-brought or not, Thane took her face in his hands and spoke while looking directly into her eyes.
"I'm not going anywhere."
He swore the words as both oath and bond, and caught her, when her knees buckled and she landed against him; desperate hands searching for purchase upon his person but finding none in her blind need until he guided her arms around his shoulders and drew her properly back into his embrace.
And there she remained. There they remained. Her resolve entirely decimated, Amial wept into her mate's neck until she was too weak to stand and he, strong, loving he, welcomed her onto the edge of his bed when her strength finally deserted her, settling himself beside her and holding her until her sobs at last began to ease.