Warning: Not beta-read. Spoilers for ME 2.
MORINTH — DESIRE
Omega — Before
Morinth loves Omega; loves its pulsing life and haunting darkness. There is a sense of menace to everything, a beauty in the ever-present decay. The violence in this place has a different texture than elsewhere, it is raw and brutal, it has no time to waste on empty romanticism or shallow glamour. Here, everything just is and she revels in it all, covered in the black velvet taste of Omega, fascinated by the prospect of it. Every interesting person, she sometimes thinks, everyone who has ever meant anything in the galaxy as far as she is concerned, would sooner or later come to this place. She just needs to sit back and listen and wait, weave her body into the rhythm of the Afterlife's relentless music.
She will grow bored with it soon enough, the waiting now is a thrill, the hunter crouching around the corner or in its lair waiting for the moment to spring on its unsuspecting victim, but times will change and the waiting will be frustrating, empty feeling. The prey will lose its appeal, even here. Or else someone with the guts and the firepower may come for her.
For now, Morinth has steered clear of Aria. It isn't because of fear, she knows - they both know - it is the mutual respect even Morinth sometimes offers another hunter. Aria and her, they are nothing alike, but it is close enough. But Aria doesn't care and won't take an interest unless things threaten her. Omega is big enough for both of them as long as their hunting grounds and prey not intervene.
Aria might yet turn out to be worth the risk of it, but Morinth hasn't decided one way or the other.
For a time, Morinth played with a sculptor. A human girl too young even to realise she was toying with fire - and none of them ever quite grasp what fire they are playing with, even those who recognise some of the heat - and Nef needs goading. Like embers in a fire, if you poke them right, they flare up to the sky, brighter than a nuclear explosion, as lovely to look at and ultimately as devastating. But as time goes on, Nef becomes lost in the net of Morinth's making, loses her fire as it seeped away from her to gather at Morinth's fingertips, ready to be played with like a musical instrument. Their final act was... something of a disappointment.
In hindsight, Morinth realises she has played the girl for too long. Accidentally, she had leeched all the spice from the girl long before touching her.
What a shame, Morinth decides as she leans back in her private booth, watching the other patrons. It could have been so much greater than it was, but Morinth is not stupid. Her mistakes are rare enough that, when she makes them, they are a source of some amusement to her. One she might be able to do without, but it reassures her, too, of being still alive. Just sometimes, when the power grows too great it begins to drown out that tingle, that painful little knowledge that, yes, Morinth is mortal - as mortal as they all are, in the end - and death, any death, lurks just around the corner. If it didn't, the hunt would hold no thrill.
Still, perhaps her next game should be played differently. Faster. Harder. No long toying, no foreplay. Nothing but a leap of faith right into the fray.
Omega — Wild
Omega is cruel to the weak. It is cruel to the strong as well, but those can still fight while the weak merely perish. Omega is unforgiving of flaws. It has long since weeded out those too meek to fend for themselves. Evolution here has left people sharp-edged and cold-eyed, some steeped in desperation, others in the stink of their multitude of crimes. Everyone in the Afterlife's dingy, decadent VIP area sometimes reminds Morinth of a taunt wire, thin and silvery, ready to cut or rip. Everyone here has been in a fight, has once walked hand in hand with death. Everyone here understands violence and knows of its primal appeal.
They recognise Morinth's superiority, the swirl of the crowd reveals it, the way they look at her and moreover, the way they not look at her. Everyone here is powerful in their own way, but Morinth stands above them.
But the night is slow and long and Morinth sees too many familiar faces, too many wide-eyed adoring looks. In another time she might enjoy them, but something still rankles in her about Nef. The patrons keep their distance from her, but then something shifts in the mood and Morinth can taste it like a scent, lightning static right before a storm.
She doesn't know when he had walked in and wonders for a long minute how she could have missed it, worries, for the briefest of moments what else she might have missed. But the worry doesn't last, the thoughts slide away from such unpleasant implications, attention drawn irresistibly back to the newcomer.
She tracks his movements, the predator's pace and the warrior's stance. Of course there are too many mercs on Omega to count and every single one of them is either a skilled fighter or a dead merc, but this is something new. This, she thinks with a purr slipping up her throat to curl in the glass against her lips, this she hasn't seen before.
This man has walked battlefields and defied odds that should have broken him and instead only made him stronger. He, not unlike her, has met death face to face and walked away from it. There is an aura of decay around him that she can't place, something dark and consuming and inexorably alluring.
As the night drags on, Morinth watches him and watches others do the same. He has caused a stir and a hush underneath the drumbeats of the music. The others, less attuned, perhaps than Morinth, still cannot quite fail to feel this fascination, pulled towards him without the ability to fight. But they are too scared and too awed to approach.
He moves through the crowd, disdaining the adoration that crests around him in waves.
Morinth draws forward when she sees a krogan approach him at the bar. The krogan seems too sober to be stupid enough to challenge that human, feeble as he must seem to a krogan's eyes. There is an exchange and Morinth reads the body language of both, knows everything they say intimately as if she were standing right behind him.
There are scars on his face. She saw them before but had put it down to tricks of the uncertain light. Cybernetic scars, leaving a faint glowing net across his cheeks with tiny flecks of red in his eyes. She almost loses interest after that. He hadn't seemed the shallow type, but cybernetics seem cheap to her, a way for the powerless to appear more than they are. But then he leans forward on the bar and the movement catches her eye again and she forgets her previous line of thought.
The krogan retreats under the human's flickering gaze. He has pulled one eyebrow slightly upwards, but returns his attention to the bar. From her vantage point, Morinth sees the corners of his mouth twitch briefly into a smirk, he says something and the bartender announces free drinks on the house a moment later.
Morinth finds it amusing how she has never discriminated against any species in the galaxy. Every single one of them, sooner or later, will provide her with something interesting. But humans have a special place in her heart, their females were so surprisingly similar to asari it seemed like barely a coincidence to her sometimes. And their males offered some interesting speculation of what the asari might have been like, in the dawn of their time, when they still had had need of males. His face, she supposes, would be handsome, the strange scarring notwithstanding, but it is a trite observation against all his other merits.
It is good, she decides, that she doesn't intend to play this time. That human wouldn't be played, she can tell. Not her game, anyway, and she is hardly prepared to change for any human, no matter his allure. It will be fun to see him break, but not too early. A moment of realisation perhaps, she can almost already taste it, when he learns that for all his obvious skill and all the experience she sees written in his every move, he has found his better.
Quietly, she resolves to cherish his memory for longer, to remember the feel of him, the texture of his skin and the heat of his mind. Nef will be nothing in comparison.
She slides from her seat, eagerness driving her and it feels good to be moving again, to have abandoned her vantage point of observation and put her hands into the volcano again, to feel the deadliness well up between her fingers.
He is standing by the dance-floor, easily relaxed with apparently no intention of joining the writhing mess of bodies there. His face is faintly amused, distantly jaded and there is something else that Morinth doesn't know how to identify.
She fails to take him off guard, but she has not expected she would; if she had, maybe she would have not approached him at all. As it is, he turns his head towards her, lets her catch his eye, but betrays nothing of his thoughts.
It has been so very long since anyone has interested her half as much as that man does. In fact, in that moment, she finds herself hard-pressed to remember most of her previous partners. They pale and fade in comparison, shrivel away under his gaze the way the krogan had done at the bar.
Not much later, he relaxes in his seat, facing her, secretive gaze and confident smile lingering. It isn't quite a challenge, as if she doesn't quite warrant it. Not completely unlike her, he seems to have been on the lookout for someone interesting enough to bother with and having found someone promising, he was still withholding judgment. When she looks at him, she sees something dark in the flecks of his eyes, hints of strength that hadn't even been tested and memories of the fires he had walked through. For a tiny instant she finds herself questioning the wisdom of picking him, but he is only human, no matter what else he might be, no matter how strong or skilled, he cannot possibly stand against her. He makes things more interesting, though.
For now, he is perfectly safe with her. She enjoys his company and her resolve of abstain from playing begins to slip her mind. It would be a shame to lose his company so soon. How often in a millennium did you meet a being like this? He leaves the conversation to her, lets her talk, the kind of listener one would wish for. He is seducing her, she can tell, or at least he thinks he is, controlling his reactions to lure her closer, never knowing that it was he - not her - who was getting caught in the tangles of temptation.
Only when they talk about travelling does he take the initiative from her. He has been places, seen many things. He is not just some lowly thug, unaware of his gifts who finds himself on Omega like so much driftwood, but he doesn't reveal too much of himself. Soon enough all his secrets would belong to her anyway, there was no harm in letting him keep them for a little while longer. She wants that strength, but she won't ruin it ahead of time. If she has learned nothing over Nef, then how there was a right time for everything.
"I want you alone," she tells him and it is almost too dark to see his expression. A flicker of triumph, possibly, dark red light flaring up in the depth of his gaze. This, she decides, is going to be good.
Omega — Shockwave
It never happens the way she imagines.
She is the tempter, the demon who would steel his power and his soul and his life. When she takes him home, it is because of what she wants, giving him no choice and his long, hard combat experience gives him no edge to understand the kind of danger he faces. It is, of course, in the nature of seduction that the victim has no wish to escape.
Tonight, however, the joke is on her and she is not the hunter at all.
When she realises it, it is already too late.
The tentative way she touches his mind makes her hunger flare, above and beyond her control; that taste of steel and ice and fire. Her control slides from her grasp and flounders helplessly just out of reach.
There is a moment of equilibrium where they are perfectly balanced against each other, alien minds twining together.
She leans over him, feels his hard body unyielding under her trailing fingers, finds his gaze and this time doesn't let go. A long since forgotten emotion stirs in the pit of her stomach with the need and the thrill. It fascinates her before the pieces fall into place and he speaks, unbroken, and her mental strength beats against steel, brushes off as if she was nothing.
Only one creature would come after her in such a devious way, only one would be desperate enough to throw such a unique being out to her as bait.
Even as the realisation hits, Morinth feels the rush in her body, bittersweet thrill this time, only to watch her mother walk into the room with all the confidence Morinth had hated so much during her youth.
Their powers are evenly matched. Morinth knows it and she can taste the her mother's anger over it, feels the ancient rage boil to the surface in flickering blue, but to no avail.
But there is more, here, in this room than just two supremely powerful asari. Her mother should know what he is capable of, better than Morinth herself, but Samara had never been anything but blinded.
Morinth calls out to him, not because of any romantic faith - she has no use for a saviour - but she can't simply let it go. She can't let herself die like this, letting random chance decide which one of them made the first mistake. Still, she doesn't quite believe it even when his hand closes around her mother's wrist and yanks it back with no more effort than it would need to break a dry branch.
Afterwards, he asks her to follow him. Asks, demands, never doubting for a moment the answer she will give. Morinth almost believes that this is how he planned it from the beginning, but she doesn't ask and he would never tell.
He will kill her now, where she stands over her mother's corpse, if she somehow finds the audacity to refuse him and later, he will kill her the moment he thinks he cannot trust her.
In a battle, she learns, he turns his back to her, relies on her utterly and commits his life to her in the same way he does with all the other members of his squad.
It is a peculiar, but not unpleasant feeling, at least for now.
Normandy — Rebirth
She learns his name and with it, his history. She follows him, but curiously, she finds she doesn't mind. She keeps telling herself she does so by her own choice, but it is in the nature of seduction that the victim has no wish to escape.
But living for every form of intensity as she is, her new life is more than enough to satisfy her. And she finds it again, that faint tingling feeling the name of which had eluded her before, facing Shepard in the Afterlife. Fear, she now knows, grown strange and distant within all her centuries when the instinct for it had become mostly pointless, replaced by nothing but a sense of the different levels of danger. She doesn't know what to make of it, not always. She dislikes it, but at the same time the novelty of it is fascinating.
They are all going to die, the reality of it somehow doesn't touch her. The Normandy is a self-contained world and within it, they are all immortal. It seems the only conclusion to draw, when their leader has already proven his immortality.
She follow him past the Omega-4 relay, too, past that mythical, legendary gateway where death beckons the wary and unwary alike. And Shepard proves his worth time and again, against all mounting odds, lives up to and then outshines his own reputation.
Impossible has become an abstract concept, Morinth thinks as the strength flows away from her like so much water and she feels the seeker swarms battering away at all the power she spent centuries collecting. Concern and compassion waver at the edges of her existence, ready to invade her mind where exhaustion purges it of darkness. She wants to keep those people safe. She needs to do her part in this. Shepard's icy control lingers in her mind and she suspects, for no more than a split second, that this - this - must be similar to how her lovers all felt. Maybe they were never overpowered at all, maybe they willingly bled their life away just because she asked, in the same way Shepard now asks her to lay down her life for the survival of a galaxy.
But again her expectation is thwarted and she doesn't die. There is a bruise on her arm where Shepard pulled her to her feet and yanked her through the doorway. In the days that follow she almost wishes it wouldn't fade.
None of them dies. They carry away scars and bruises and wounds, the pain taking deep root in some of them, but they all come back.
She has long since rejected her mother's religion and all other belief in the universe with it, she prefers to be her own goddess - and she still remembers that feeling. She is her own doom and her own salvation, but if she were still given to faith, this would have proved everything.
Normandy — Fallout
For Morinth, Shepard is a collection of firsts.
The first one to so effortlessly defy her. The first one to trust her without holding back. And the first one to make her feel a shadow of regret over what she is.
When she tells him she thinks he will survive, she doesn't know herself whether she is lying or not. She certainly wishes she wasn't, just that little bit, because then he might do more than smirk and walk away.
She has never perceived her condition as an illness, as a weakness, rather it is strength and power beyond most people's imagining. It feels arcane, sometimes, beyond the mundane facts of genes and their malfunction.
And now, so many years since she walked away from her people to play her own game and a laughable short span of time since she walked away from her mother's corpse, she remembers the asari of old calling her condition a curse. Only, they had been wrong about one thing. It is not the doom she brings others that is the curse, it is what it does to herself.
All the reasons she gives him, they are all good and solid, they might stand the test. Certainly an occasion likes this has never happened before. No Ardat-Yakshi has ever faced the likes of him, so who was to say he would succumb the same way everyone else inevitably does? But it is not enough, whatever attraction there might be between them - and there is, she can read it in his body language, though only sometimes and when they are alone - he doesn't act on it.
She is an Ardat-Yakshi. She is, by her very nature, the most powerful asari in existence. There is nothing in this universe beyond her power to take, to possess, to play with, to discard as she pleases.
Shepard will kill her. There is no doubt and no fighting chance, no magic trick that would save her and all her power will mean nothing. Shepard will kill her if she forces his hand and she thinks that maybe she loves him.
She settles back in her seat, watches the stars outside the window as they blur with the movement of the ship. Her mother used to meditate, the memory comes unbidden, but forceful. For a moment, it seems an inviting thought.
Everything in the universe seems changed, made new now that she finds herself looking at it from this altered perspective and in this strange place.
She thinks that she will let him kill her, should it ever come to it, just like her victims loved her and died for her.
Author's Note: I usually don't believe in throwing things out there which I don't feel confident about. This time around, I'm really at a loss. So, I'm asking for constructive criticism. I know what I'm trying to invoke here, but at some point, it falls flat. I can't put my finger on it and it's driving me up the walls.
Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoy despite its half-cooked state!