All say, "How hard it is to have to die!"-a strange complaint to come from the mouths of those who've had to live.-Matriarch Dilinaga
Like everywhere on the Citadel, the Orlinda's Mercy Hospice was bright and airy. It was artificial light, of course, but the superior technology of the Citadel made the blue sky very convincing. It streamed through open windows and a convincing simulation of fresh air blew the light curtains of the room around.
Thane was asleep, but Shepard sat down anyway.
There was a display board on the far wall, but it was empty-there wasn't really a market for "sorry you're terminally ill" cards. Thane wasn't really the type, anyway. He'd always accepted his limited prognosis with a quiescence that she was utterly unable to match.
Shepard pulled all the strings she had with the Illusive Man, but there simply were no options. The Hanar had been trying to crack Kepral's Syndrome for two Drell generations with virtually no success. A new set of lungs only set back its progress by a matter of weeks. A genetic adaptation was being developed, but it was potentially years off, and in any case not very helpful to an adult sufferer.
Military training had taught Shepard all about compartmentalizing. A soldier simply had to be able to cordon uncomfortable thoughts off to be dealt with at a more appropriate time. So it was with Thane. She did her research and sent her e-mails and raged at the Illusive Man and his claims of futility. And when she wasn't doing that, she enjoyed their time together.
He knew what she was doing, of course, but didn't speak of it. He wanted to live as much as she wanted him to, but there simply were no options, and he knew it.
And so it was for some time. After the Collectors were destroyed, the crew of the new Normandy stayed together for awhile, but eventually individual interests led them in different directions.
Shepard took an extended vacation, and of course Thane accompanied. They went to Prothean dig sites and deserts, and of course got into their fair share of trouble. He communicated with Kolyat constantly, but his son seemed disinterested in further contact at least for the time being.
Then, abruptly, things started to go downhill. Her late-night conversations with the Illusive Man and scientists on Kahje took on a more desperate tone. But the only thing left was to come here, to the Citadel. Kolyat was still living in the Wards and the Illusive Man assured her that she would find no better hospice than this one.
"Siha, what are you doing here?" Thane said suddenly, startling her. His eyes were the same as ever, huge and bright, but the tone of his skin was going dull.
Shepard took his hand. He felt cold.
"Why do you think I'm here?"
"I told you to stay away."
"You know I can't listen to you." They'd argued about this extensively in the last few weeks. Eidetic memory was occasionally as much a curse as a blessing. The Drell avoided their loved one's demises; better that than have such a bitter memory to relive with perfect clarity.
But, as she had reminded him, she was not Drell.
"I heard you had a visitor. Kolyat?" Shepard changed the subject. Thane's expression softened.
"Yes. He's still working off his debt to C-Sec. My hope is that he will find it satisfying and go into law enforcement. He could be adventuresome but not on the wrong side of the law."
"Where is he now?"
"I sent him away, Siha, as I must send you away. I don't have much time left, and this is not how I would leave your memories."
"For God's sake, Thane!" Shepard's famous stoicism was cracking. "My concern is with you! I don't want you to...be alone."
"I know, Siha. But when my soul departs my body, I will be beyond your concern. And it is you who will be alone."
Abruptly they were crying together. They'd managed to avoid this in their relationship thus far, but reality had finally overtaken them.
"...That's why I want you to seek out Kaidan Alenko."
Anger eclipsed despair for a moment. Thane knew about her history with Kaidan, of course, but it hardly seemed like the time to bring it up.
"Because you loved him once, and could again. I want you to be happy, my Siha."
There were noticeable cultural differences between Drell and Humans that had come up during the time they'd known each other, leading occasionally to misunderstandings. That was part of loving someone from a different arm of the galaxy.
"Our last meeting didn't exactly go well. I spent two years dead and all he could talk about was where my paycheck was coming from."
"But then he apologized."
"I don't care what he did! I love you! I won't just...replace you!"
Thane drew a deep, halting breath.
"You'll have memories of me, my Siha, but I want you to have more. I cannot bear to think of you walking your path alone."
"Thane, please..." Shepard couldn't speak anymore. She put her hand on his face, and his own hand covered hers. His skin was cooling rapidly, and his eyes slid closed for a moment.
"Promise me that you will at least speak with him again." Thane whispered.
"Fine. I'll speak to Kaidan. But I'm not leaving until...I'm not leaving you."
A smile touched the corner of his mouth.
"It's a deal. Now, come lie beside me once more before I embrace the sea."
The nurses would be displeased, of course, but they could go straight to hell. Cerberus' money was enough to buy her occasionally atypical behavior.
She lifted the blankets and crawled onto the cot beside Thane's still frame. His chest still rose and fell, but only just barely. Her tears fell freely onto his shoulder, there was no use hiding them now.
"Shall I tell you about my favorite memories of you?" She said, though he couldn't answer.
"It's sunset on Illium, and we're standing together in the financial district, overlooking the city..."
Shepard sat in front of her keyboard for a long time, watching the cursor blink. The huge fishtank bathed the room in an eerie blue glow, her own representation of the sea. It lit the neatly made, empty bed, and their personal things.
Shepard brought a fist down hard on the desk, making her keyboard jump, and a sob tore out of her throat. She let grief take her for a few long moments, then took a cleansing breath and started typing.
I know it's been a long time since we spoke. I am writing this message because I promised someone very important to me that I would.
I know we meant something to each other once, and if we ever will again, I need to tell you what's happened to me since the destruction of the Normandy.
The most important thing that happened was someone called Thane Krios.