Author: popehippo PM
After returning from the Citadel after the death of a loved one, Fiona Shepard receives some comfort from the last person she imagined. Oneshot, FemShep/Thane, hints of FemShep/JavikRated: Fiction K - English - Hurt/Comfort/Friendship - Shepard (F) & Javik - Words: 2,302 - Reviews: 13 - Favs: 36 - Follows: 4 - Published: 03-31-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7976843
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
She had always taken a certain amount of responsibility with the place of names on the memorial wall aboard the Normandy. Others would've left it to another crew member, but Fiona felt like it was necessary. When she was standing around that table talking about negotiations and numbers, it was easy to sometimes lose sight of the cost of her actions. Seeing the names brought it back down to Earth... so to speak.
But today was not the same.
She clicked the final letter into place and stepped back to view it. White on black. Ten letters, bunched together into a name. Combined with all the others his suddenly seemed smaller, just one of many, some of them friends, many of them strangers. Just one of many. Just one more life lost.
But it's not just one more, she thought, curiously calm. Maybe for everyone else it is. But not for me.
Fiona turned to face the speaker. "Javik? Do you need something?"
"I was speaking to the turian. He seemed concerned about your state, and I wanted to see for myself." His voice trailed off for a moment as he seemed to consider his thoughts, possibly considering how he'd have to dumb them down for lesser species. "He is wrong on many things, but correct on this. It's obvious to anyone with eyes."
For a second, Fiona considered lying. She had a list of things left over to do even without the Citadel's shit, and dealing with Javik's form of "social" was not one of them. Weren't there enough problems on this ship without adding to them? This was a warship, not a therapy cruise. But she'd also come to know Javik about as well as one could know a fifty-thousand year old alien. He spotted lies all too easily, and would not take kindly to it. And in this moment, what did she have to lose? Still, she was all too aware of the crew behind them, not near enough to hear but still too close for the words she had to say.
"In private," was her reply.
Javik nodded and turned to step into the nearest empty room. Life Support. Again, Shepard balked. That's his room, her psyche whispered. In reply, her logic said, But not anymore. She followed inside and let the door shut behind them.
Javik was not a man of secrets, nor a man of small talk. As soon as they were alone, he wheeled back to face her, pinning her under his steely stare."You have been this way since we returned from the Citadel. Silent. Restless. Aggravated. Why? Did an attack in the heart of your society unnerve you so?"
"A lot happened back there," she pointed out as she took a seat, facing the window. Is this the same table? The same chair? I almost can't remember. It seems so long ago. "Not everyday your government officials turn crazy on you."
All his eyes narrowed down to slits. "Deceit does not suit you."
"All the Protheans put in stasis, and I get the one who can't take a joke..." But she sighed and raked a hand through her hair. It was a little greasy, she realized. How long ago had she showered? Since before arriving on the Citadel, she realized. A day? Had it really been less than a day? "I lost someone I cared about. Someone..." The hitch in her voice was hard to mask, harder to ignore. "Someone I cared about."
He considered her carefully. She noticed only the smallest of relaxation in his frame, a glimpse of interest in his face. "The drell. The one who protected the salarian politician from Cerberus."
She nodded. "Him. He had been sick for some time, and he didn't have long as it was, but..."
Javik sat down in the other seat, finishing her thought for her. "You thought you had time."
"Foolish of me," admitted the commander. "But, well, I thought about it. When we met, he was supposed to be in his last year. When the Alliance grounded me,I wasn't able to get in contact with him for months. I had no idea how he was, how far the illness had spread..."
Shepard took the cup on the table into her hands, inspecting it. It wasn't his. Someone else's. Where his had gone, she could only guess. "Part of me accepted him as dead. Part of me still believed he wasn't. I'm still not sure which was easier, to grieve for a man who might still be alive, or to hope and be disappointed." She was blabbing at that point, she realized. Javik wasn't a conversation person. But now that she'd started, it was hard to stop. "But then there he was, waiting on the Citadel. I let myself think that if I was that lucky, maybe it'd stretch a little bit longer, to just give us a little bit more time."
"Time for what?"
Her fingertips paused over the sleek ceramic. "I don't know. Not for a cure, I knew that. Maybe just.. time to still have him. To see him." Her eyes stung. "To say the things I meant to say."
"In my cycle, the general belief was not to put stock in such things," replied Javik, watching the movement of her hands with curiosity. "It tempted fate."
"I might have argued with you on that once. But now..."
"War changes one's ideals," he agreed solemnly. He paused, then added, "You were aware of the drell's illness before you were joined."
"Yet you continued." He scowled with confusion. "Why?"
The silence felt almost physical, a weight she could feel and not quite shrug off. She gripped the cup tight in her hands, her fingertips paling to a fine white. Finally, she explained, "Because the alternative was not continuing. Even if... if our time was cut short, by the Kepral's or the Reapers or the Alliance, it was worth it."
"You believe your grief and pain still has worth... in contrast to peace of mind without it. You regret nothing?" he asked, his usual somber tone tinged with something she couldn't quite interpret. Curiosity? Or perhaps his usual air of superiority.
She shook her head and looked up to meet his gaze. "In contrast to having nothing at all is how I see it. Yes, it hurts right now. But there was some joy, some comfort for both of us." A smile pulled at her mouth, the first since stepping off the Citadel. "So... no. I don't regret a thing."
It was Javik's turn to sit silently, his eyes turning away to stare along the white span of the table between them. Shepard was no expert at Prothean expressions, but maybe the look of contemplation was something that spanned the width of the galaxy. Or, in his special case, time. Again her mind drifted against her will to Thane. In their earliest interactions, his face had been like a mask to her. Not just alien, but so calm, so harnessed and in control. Sometimes it was more like dealing with a puzzle than a person, like maybe if she could get all the pieces together, she could see what was really going on in his mind. She'd never been able to resist puzzles.
But now she remembered the smiles, the scowls... the way his features had twisted from the coughs that had stolen his final moments-
"When I was young, I rarely saw the sun."
Javik's voice cut through her thoughts like a knife. She glanced up, blinking. "What?"
He carried on as if he hadn't heard her question. "We were in a bunker for most of my younger years, encased in metal and stone to protect us while the soldiers were fighting to defend what we had left. I was six when I first saw the star of my system." His voice was calmer, she realized, with little trace of his usual bite. He traced his fingers along the desk, all of his eyes following the path he was trailing in the dust. "One learned the way of the galaxy quickly. Death was a common thing among the young. Everyone knew the taste of loss in some form or another."
His hands froze as they neared the cup, but his gaze remained lowered. "I grew angry at this once, shortly after the death of my father. I asked my mother why she had bothered to let me be born into such hopelessness. It seemed pointless then. Cruel, even. And she said..."
For only a moment, she saw it. A weariness to match her own, but an older one, not quite as fresh but there all the same. She had considered their similarities before, but only now did it seem so real; the empathy of it made her skin prickle and chest ache.
"My mother said that they had to try. That even if there was just one chance that I could succeed where she had not, that if I rose up when she fell, it would have been worthwhile. The universe does not grow without an attempt, she said. Evolution requires risk on all our parts. And if she had allowed her despair to consume her... she had already lost. She felt that she had to make do with the time she had."
When the silence became too heavy, Fiona murmured sympathetically, "She sounds like she was a good woman."
Javik nodded. "She was."
And like that, the moment was gone. He looked up and returned her stare, ochre eyes as intense and closed off as ever. "Do not fall to despair, commander. It will only harm us all in the end."
"And we wouldn't want that, would we?" she replied with a light chuckle, getting to her feet. "Well. Thanks for the talk, Javik, but I need to-"
His movement was too quick to avoid. Javik had a grip like a vice, without escape or ability to resist as he swung her back around towards him. Before she had time to react, they were face to face and nose to nose. The emotions hit her one after the other in succession, each one more powerful than the last-
Grief, not the sort from a fresh wound but something older and harder, cold and solid. The sense of grim acceptance that there was no future. No hope. No desire. Nothing. The sensation made her stomach feel like ice. Her mind felt numb. Disconnected.
Then suddenly... warmth, as fresh as sunlight. Despair was washed away, replaced with something that hadn't been felt in years. Peace. Order. Purpose. The recognition of knowing someone cared.
And in the middle of it all, a memory of two sets of joined hands, alien in shape and color but holding tightly nonetheless. So simple, so complex. As if just for one moment, everything in the world had become clear again. There was nothing to fear.
Through his eyes, she saw herself offer him a smile, and felt his lips return the same.
-Just as quickly, she was released. The action was so quick she gasped, stepping back to catch herself against the bulkhead, blinking back moisture in her eyes. "What the hell-"
"They are fading with time. But the emotions, the thoughts that linger here are powerful," stated Javik, speaking as calmly as if he were commenting on the weather. "Those were the strongest."
Shepard shook her head, trying to catch her breath. She wasn't entirely sure if the rolling emotions in her now were those transmitted, or maybe her reactions to them, only adding to her disorientation. Javik had taken away memories before, but had rarely given them back. "You mean that was..."
A scowl twitched at the alien's lips. "I did not stutter."
The physical effects of the exchange began to fade. And, for a moment, Shepard didn't want them to. They're all I have left, part of her shouted, but even in that second she knew that wasn't true.
I have my memories. My time with him. I have those.
"I..." She straightened and offered him a small smile. "Thank you."
If the compliment was gratifying for him, it didn't show. His tone was as curt as ever when he replied, "Your state will have great weight on how our success turns out. All the more pity for us if I cannot find a way to improve upon it so you do not fail as spectacularly as I may suspect."
"Well then, thank you for doing what you can."
He raised his chin a bit, the only visible acknowledgement of her words. But something in her sensed he was somewhat pleased. Though whether or not it was from her words or her admittance to needing his help, who knew. "We need you to be at your best. Anything else, and you are a burden."
Fiona couldn't help but laugh. "And then it's time for the airlock, right?"
"You would be correct."
"Well. We can't have that."
Fiona followed him out of Life Support, the door shutting behind them, leaving the table again in silence and darkness. She could feel the letters from the memorial wall, that white on black, staring at her back as she left it behind. It wouldn't be the last time she stood in front of it, or sat in that room and considered the man who had dwelled there for such a short time.
But for now, she had to make the best of it out of the time she had.