A/N: Thane and his siha going on a desert vacation? Why, isn't that a novel idea! ;) Hah, I kid. I absolutely love this idea, given to me by the wonderful, talented Sylph_14 at the BioWare Social Site, who this piece is dedicated to. :3 Enjoy!
Even the artificial skies on the Presidium paled in comparison to the clear blue above their heads now. Most would disagree. The Presidium's sky was perfect because it was altered by man; refined. But that was exact reason why what streched above was far superior. There wasn't a cloud in sight; the Earth's ceiling no more than a gradient from sapphire to cornflower, a stark contrast to the nearly orange sand beneath their feet.
Neither of them could have asked for better weather. Being that there wasn't a cloud in sight, the air remained clear and arid, warm, but not hot due to a constant wind. They were sure to book the short trip to the tiniest detail, and they were rewarded for it with gorgeous weather and beautiful surroundings, so far off from the nearest settlement that the desert around them seemed virtually untouched.
Shepard's hand went to her eyes to block out the sun as she glanced back at Thane, who'd stopped walking to cast a look around. She couldn't help but smile to herself at the sight of him - eyes upturned to the sky in the direction they'd come, hands resting upon the straps of the pack on his back. They'd both given up their usual uniforms for simpler clothes, clothes easier to walk in. The image of him backpacking through the desert in his leathers was almost as often a cause of laughter as it was of teasing.
He'd accepted the tawny pants and simple white shirt from her the night before they set out, trying them on and attempting to look imposing despite her hopeless giggles at the sight. She'd only ever seen him zipped into copious amounts of leather or, well, naked. Civilian clothes on the man was an odd sight. Nice, but odd.
"See anything?" she asked as she moved over to him. Her arms instinctively curled around his waist as her chin rested on his shoulder.
A smile curled at her mouth when she felt his hand fall to cover hers on his stomach. "I believe so," he replied quietly, turning his face just enough so he could see her face where it was perched. "Behind the triodia; over there." His free hand pointed in the direction he'd been looking, and Shepard's eyes narrowed in the direction of his index. Sure enough. A tan creature was making its way through the low-lying maze of desert grass. Its body was long and lean and finely muscled, covered in fur.
"A dingo," she breathed. They hadn't been expecting to see any animals, especially not one of a species nearing extinction. The sight had her chewing on her bottom lip to keep from grinning, and she pulled herself closer to his back, fingers splayed along his abdominals.
They both watched in silence as the canine made its way through the tall, spiny grass, either unaware of or unimpressed by their existence.
When the dingo had disappeared in the opposite direction, the two stood in relative quiet for a while. She tilted her head closer to his, her eyes closing at the feeling of his skin pressed against her forehead. He, too, shut his eyes, hands closing around hers where they still rested on his stomach.
They'd both needed this time to get away, time to breathe. This was their time alone, but in the same vein, it was the perfect time to be together. The Collector threat was a threat no longer, and the Council was trying to reach a decision about the Reapers. The scant two hours before hitting the Omega 4 relay no longer felt like the calm before the storm. This did. And despite the clenching stress she felt in her gut, being here with Thane surrounded by nothing but wilderness had a soothing effect.
He was the first to break the quiet. "Your skin," he whispered, fingers trailing along her bare forearm. No matter how long they were together, how many times she felt it, the sensation of his fingers smoothing over her skin was intoxicating. Perhaps not hallucinogenic, but definitely engrossing. "How long has it been since you reapplied the sun block?"
"Not exactly the most subtle way to get me to take my shirt off, Sere Krios," she murmured her reply, nuzzling her nose into the soft, leathery folds beneath his throat.
Thane chuckled. "If that was my motive, siha, I would not have asked."
"Perv," Shepard snorted, her arms closing around him in a firm embrace. It took a push of her own will to let go of him, and yet she still did so with obvious reluctance, slipping the pack from her shoulders and beginning to rummage through it. "It's been a few hours. Wanna held me reapply? We can find somewhere shady. There's a tree not far up."
Thane's tendency towards protection always got her smiling. She watched, sun block in hand, as he moved around beneath the shade of the tree, picking through the fallen branches to see if any dangerous creatures would interrupt them the moment they sat down. His eyes were sharp and meticulous as they studied the detail of the tree's bark, its leaves and branches, before making another circle around the thick base to look for a place for them to sit comfortably.
When he finally spotted the ideal location, he waved her over, nudging any of the twigs in the sand away with his foot. Shepard handed him the sun block, eyes on his hands as he squirted a small amount into his palms and rubbed them together. The gel was cool on her forearms as he smoothed it across her skin, massaging it deep into her pores until he was satisfied. Then his hands were on her throat. She shut her eyes at the sensation, nearly swaying on her feet as his fingers moved in gentle circles along her neck, down her collarbones, along the deep cut of her sleeveless top. He was quite serious when it came to his task, she realized, as she opened her eyes only to find his narrowed in concentration.
Her shoulders were next, and she was instructed without his saying a word to turn around so her back was facing him. She fought the urge to roll her shoulders as he ran his hands over them, hands digging deep into the muscle as he worked the sun block into her skin. When had this gone from being a rub down to a massage? Ah, who cared?
"Face me again," Thane said quietly, his hands falling to her waist as he tried to guide her around. Shepard obeyed the softly spoken order without a second's thought, her boots scuffling in the sand. She hardly had enough time to react before she felt the cool gel on her nose. Snorting, she recoiled at first. Thane laughed and grasped her wrist as he tugged her back, closer to him. "Stop fussing. Your cheeks need this, too."
"Yes, sir," she replied, narrowing her eyes at his lips instead of awarding him all of her attention. She watched as his mouth twitched as he repressed a smile, his hands spreading across her cheeks, massaging the gel into them. "I really don't see the poi --"
Shepard shut her mouth with a noticeable snap. This was impressive in itself, as she hardly ever accepted any requests like that. Then again, his appeal was hardly a request. Thane could be extremely stern when the matter at hand needed it.
When he was finally finished, he smoothed his hands over the thighs of his pants. "You will thank me later," he said with a hint of a smile, taking a step back from her. "Come, let's sit. Enjoy the view." Turning around, he moved to the spot he'd picked out before applying the sun block, and he sat down without disturbing much of the sand. He smirked when she did the complete opposite, flopping down beside him unceremoniously.
Even a mere two weeks after he came to her, they merged together in an almost natural way. His arm curled around her shoulders as she draped an arm over his stomach. She rested her head on his chest; his nose nuzzled into her hair. He smelled like desert and spice, fitting in perfectly with their surroundings as if he were at home. On her, he could smell the faint remnants of her shampoo, the salty trace of sweat at her temples, the unrecognizable scent of the sun block.
Moments of quiet tended to stretch on between them. Not out of their own desire to stay silent or not knowing what to say, but out of the innate comfort they shared. It wasn't about reading off poetry or reciting whatever they felt the other wished to hear. It was about enjoying their company.
Shepard's fingers ran absently along his waist, only coming to a slow stop when his hand settled on her wrist. "Thank you for bringing me here, siha." His voice was slightly muffled, but his words hit her right in the center of her chest.
"Thank you for coming with me."
Thane smiled, and his arm tightened around her.
Another contemplative silence ticked past. Eventually they would have to find their way back to camp; hopefully before the sun dipped below the horizon. They still had a few hours until that would happen. Until then, they would keep walking, keep exploring. She'd spot another animal - a kangaroo, and then spend the next ten minutes telling him in animated tones just how rare and wonderful they were. He'd spot a flower sprouting in the grass and marvel at it for a moment before moving on, intent on leaving the speck of purple beauty amid the spindly shoots of desert grass.
When they were finally forced to find their way back to the small village they were calling home for the time being, they found their room without a hitch. They removed their sandy, sweat-streaked clothes and took turns beneath the shower head, as eager to rinse themselves clean as they were to assist. This eagerness translated to their love making despite their tired muscles.
When they were finally so tired they could hardly speak, the two lovers found each other again. His arm curled around her. Her head came to rest on his chest. And they smelled like each other.