Title: Something That'll Last
When: A decade or so before ME1, then during ME2, and shortly after.
Rating: S FOR SAPPY.
She was beautiful.
The realization was almost as striking as she was. He had seen many asari before, in all their stages of life, they came and they left the Citadel as much as any other species around. He had heard from other salarians of the feelings that being near them brought them, the sort of thing reserved for marital contracts and that was if you were lucky enough to like the girl. Corrol shuddered at the memory; the female his family wanted to match him up with was... just not that great. Her family was of low standing, not that different from his own, but obsessed with getting more power, more privilege, more riches. His own was not that much different, and the female was more to their tastes than his own.
But he wanted children. His brother had been able to get a good contract, and he was always bringing over the little herd of nephews and nieces to visit. Corrol was their favorite uncle, they all claimed, always ready and waiting with silly but beloved little presents. Yes. He wanted children.
But when his parents sat and talked about their contracts and the benefits of this pairing, he couldn't help but be bored to tears, as the human expression went. It was an apt one; he'd nearly run out of excuses to get away from them and go off and imbibe in his other goal in life: the family garden. It was a small one, nothing compared to the grounds of the Presidium viewable from their shared home, but he was proud of them. They were his, and his alone.
If I don't have children, I have the flowers, he reminded himself for the hundredth time, and pushed his hands into the mulch to spread around the base. It was then he heard the laughter. Deep but soft, not the high-pitched tingle of a young woman but still airy and happy. And it wasn't one he recognized. New neighbors? Possible... the old ones had moved out not that long ago.
He poked his head over the edge of the short wall between his apartment and the next, and felt his fast heart skip a very small beat. And that was where the memory ended and the present began. Now, an asari was sitting on a folded out chair, looking out over the landscape. No gaudy makeup or unnatural head dye... she couldn't be a maiden, or if she was, she was incredibly laid-back. Everything about her was round and soft, natural, no enhancements. Her skin was a delicate cerulean. Like Asphodel vines, he mused silently, or Earth blue bonnets.
So focused on his staring along the gentle curves of her head that when his own eyes finally fell back to her face, he was meeting her gaze. She looked amused, though confused. "Hello."
Corrol yelped and ducked.
He could hear her laughter again, then her footsteps as she walked up to the edge and loomed over to stare straight down at him. Damn tiny walls. "S-sorry," he said quickly, looking upwards. "I wasn't spying, I promise! I just- just heard you, and I-"
"Good heavens, you are jumpy," she cooed. For the first time, he saw her eyes up close; Earth lilacs when they first bloomed, with flecks of Palaven hornet blooms when the late autumn turned them to gold. His heart raced even harder, making his chest ache. And to his continuing shock, she extended a hand. "Hello. I'm your new neighbor. Minthay."
"Minthay? Minthe. Mint. Like the Earth herb. A soft green plant often used for cooking and fresh scents. Named after a nymph in ancient human mythology punished for sleeping with a god-king." With a gasp, he covered his wide mouth. He hadn't meant to babble. But she only giggled again.
"Really? Huh. That's very pretty, mister...?" She left the word dangle, her full lips hanging open like perfectly mature flush blossoms. A deep shudder went down his spine. What was this feeling! He didn't understand, and he was almost afraid for his health. Salarians didn't feel this. Was she mind controlling him? He had heard that asari could do that, that there were even some that could kill you with their bodies, but those were just a myth perpetuated by the more conservative to stifle any rampant interspecies fantasies.
...But by the Dalatrasses of old, she was lovely.
"Mister Corrol." Minthay glanced over his shoulder and her eyes widened a bit. "Goddess! That's a beautiful garden!"
"Eh? Oh. That's nothing special... you should see what they have on other parts of the station. Kithoi Ward; they have an old style theater there, with orchids as big as your head!"
She shook her head in disagreement. And before he could stop her, she had idly jumped over the barrier and into his yard. If his father saw her, he was going to faint. But... the idea didn't really bother him, as he watched her bend down to carefully sniff an open Vashu pod. Its sensitive feelers brushed along her face like little fingers and he couldn't help the idle thought of jealousy of the flower. No, no. She was an alien. And, to her, so was he. This... this feeling was not usual. To be felt, treasured, with someone he could have a future with. And even those feelings would be all too brief... they'd never last; a surge of hormones to enable his body to prepare the building blocks for his offspring. No such chance with an asari. And-
She was calling his name. Shaken out of his thoughts, he asked her to repeat. "I'm sorry, I was asking if perhaps I could take one blossom." She held up a finger in promise. Just one. "For my daughter."
"You have a daughter?"
Minthay looked as if she was going to burst with pride for a moment. "My little Hakea. She's just starting to walk, and she loves bright-colored things. Just like..."
The smile disappeared in a flash, and she seemed to crumple briefly, like a crushed petal. She fell silent. Something had upset her, not something he said or did, but... something she remembered, it seemed. He didn't want her to be sad. Quickly he knelt and, grabbing one of his nearby sheers, snipped off one of his prize blooms; a violet human rose, one of a tiny batch genetically engineered for the unnatural color. "Take it."
Her lips turned up a little bit again, and she cupped her hands around his, the flower centered between their palms and fingers. She was comfortably warm to the touch. "Thank you."
It was a week before he got the courage to ask her for dinner.
It was half a year before she invited him to move in.
Half a year and a week before his family threatened to disown him for his disgusting affair.
And one half a year and one month before he accepted her offer.
"We could get her a fish! She loves the garden. We could put in a pond."
Hakea could only roll her eyes at her Dad. He had been at this all day; one kiosk to the next, inspecting every last bauble, tech item, and goofy 'I went to Illium and all I got was a debt!' type of merchandise that he tended to get sucked into. Mom found it adorable. Her, not so much. She wished she hadn't given up those concert tickets to appease her mother; she had been so insistent that she spend more quality time with her stepfather. "You'll miss these moments," she had said. These moments? As if.
"She doesn't need a fish, Dad," she sighed, trying to keep her tone in check. She has her father's temper, according to Mom; He had been a hell of a spitfire human trooper, a leftover from her maiden days, so deeply in love with her but not yet ready to give up his adventuring days like Minthay had wanted to. If she closed her eyes, she could remember... a soft brown face, deep eyes, strong hands...
A mercenary on Omega had ended his wandering.
Glancing over to her Dad, she wondered if how her father had died that had attracted Mom to Corrol. He was so much more different than her first; calm, soft, quiet, the pillar of stability when she and Mom got into a fight. And, as she entered puberty, this was often enough.
"Hm. Maybe a shirt," he wondered aloud, unaware of her ponderings, "Or a card. 'Illium: Hey, you're Blue-Shifting already!'." He chuckled and, when she stared back at him blankly, added, "That's funny, right? Asari skin color and the Doppler Effect?"
Or maybe Mom was just attracted to people with horrible humor.
"Dad..." she sighed. "Just get her anything. Or don't." She wanted to go explore more. Not hang around dorky stands for incurable tourists like him. He frowned and went back to his searchings.
The daughter sighed and turned to go when she heard him murmur, "I have to get her something... A memento."
Something about his tone gave her pause. She turned back to glance at him. He was holding the small fish in his delicate hands, watching it spin and spin in its small carrying cube. Staring down, as if transfixed, he said quietly, "Her first mate... your father? He got her things when he traveled."
Feeling a small stab of guilt, Hakea turned back to face him. "It's not a competition, Dad."
He shook his head and placed the fish back down, picking up a bracelet crowing to be crafted by drell monks. "You don't even really remember him. And she found me after he died." He paused to consider the trinket before placing it back. "And I'm almost thirty-five."
She felt a bad taste in her mouth. She had thought about that. Dammit, she had thought about it a lot; as the years passed by, the wrinkles were impossible not to notice, the slight sagging of his skin, the slight discoloration of his skin as his body began to struggle with its hyperactive upkeep. There were days where he seemed to be having just a bit of trouble keeping up with his usual tasks, too. Before, he had been up in the early hours to keep their home's garden properly watered and sheltered. Now, it seemed he couldn't quite make the effort not to sleep in that extra half hour, a long time for a species that generally slept only one hour in total.
She had thought to herself that she was just being nit-picky. She was young; it was impossible not to notice people around her who were getting older. But cold reality always reminded her, that his bones would be dust by the time she herself reached the end of her cycle. He was her Dad, but he was not asari.
But somehow it was worse hearing it from his own voice.
"Hey. I remember him," she said, reaching out to take his wrist into her hand, giving it a little squeeze, all impatience gone. "And I want to remember you. That's why I came on this trip."
He glanced from her hand up to her face, lingering for a moment before turning back to the kiosk. He carefully slid his hand out of her grip but only to take one of hers into his, their fingers intertwining with practiced ease. "Not a fish," he decided. "Something that'll last. You'll make sure she keeps it."
Her throat thick, she nodded. "Yeah. I'll make sure."
He gave her a warm smile; he wore it often, encouraging her or Mom to forget their troubles. "How about this one?" His free hand held up a gaudy holo card showing off the planet if full view. "'If Anything Goes, It Goes To Illium'. That's kind of funny," he mused.
Hakea nodded and leaned in to kiss his cheek, ignoring the human soldier that had wandered over to inspect the toy ships.
"Mom will love it."
The body was gone.
The funeral had been done in asari fashion, as his will had requested.
It had been written only a week before Minthay had found him, sleeping on the couch. But when she had tried to stir him from what she had assumed was a nap, he didn't wake up. Or breathe. A medic was called and he had been taken to the hospital. He was roused long enough to glance over to her and smile. He murmured her name and held her hand. In his last breath, he tried to give her comfort. Once the doctor was sure that the body was dead, she gave the new widow a sympathetic look, offering brochures for funeral services on the Citadel or on the salarian homeworld.
So formal. So clinical. And all too familiar.
Why not a salarian memorial, Hakea had asked. Minthay had considered it, as much as one could consider things logically in the fog of shock and grief, right up until the second her in-laws came to see the body off. The things she heard them whisper when they thought she or her child weren't listening! "He was always the odd one." "Never could resist alien things, could he?" And his own sister, new matriarch of his former family, "I told him, you see, you'll never have real children if you keep this up. And see? Not one. Damn waste of negotiations."
Slugging that bitch had been one of the most satisfying things she'd ever felt in her long life.
Now she sat on a stool in the garden, looking out over the Ward. She still wore the funeral robe, slightly dusted with the last of his ashes from his cremation; in her hands, she held a box. As she looked over each of the flowers he had hand-planted himself, she remembered how hard he had fought, to get them an apartment with a bigger yard. He was always so quiet and reserved. It had been partially what had attracted her to him, but she sometimes forgot that his own sort of passion had a part. He had tended to stutter and trip over himself when they first dated, but all he had to do was start talking about his flowers, or tell her about the bad jokes he heard at his work, and he was off like a biotic blast. She always liked to tease at dinner parties later that she was terrified he was going to jump the land lord like a crazed flower-loving vorcha. He had rolled his eyes and ducked his head. But she could tell he was pleased.
Glancing over her shoulder, she could see Hakea in her room, curled up on her bed and shaking with sobs. She would be secluded for a while with her grief. She would eventually recover, and move on. It was simply how the asari were; their lives were too long to dwell on one man forever, however sharp the temporary pain. She knew some species found it offensive, unromantic. As if Minthay grieving for her lost husband for the rest of her years would somehow prove that she really did love him.
They didn't understand.
After a long time of silence and contemplation, she opened up the small box. Inside were some delicate seeds; they had been sealed until today, another request from his will. And with them, a little paper scroll. Curious. Minthay unrolled it, reading it over. It was written in sari, not salarian; he had meant it for her own eyes.
Minthay. If you're reading this, then my time has come, one way or another. I want you to know that I treasured the time you spent with me. You gave me all the ups, all the downs, I always wanted to have. You gave me a daughter to love. There are those that will say that what we had was not natural; I'm not your child's father, and my species aren't built for lasting relationships.
But you are special. And so was the time we had together. Knowing that you could've had anyone else, but chose me, fills me with pride I can't describe. I only wish I could stay with you forever.
I love you. So, so long ago it seems, that would have been impossible for me to say. But it's what I feel for you. You're the light of my life, and I know for someone new, they'll feel the same way. Goddess watch over you, wife.
Her eyes filled up with tears, spilling over the edge to trace down her cheeks, and finally drip down into the box. Her mate. There had been fearful moments, as she had watched his age began to catch up with him, where she had dreaded that moment. So many restless nights of sitting up in bed and watching him breath for fear that she would miss his last heartbeat, his last words. She had not been able to say goodbye to Robert as he had been ripped so violently from her world. It wasn't until the last year of her second husband's life that she realized how her first mate's death had haunted it.
A smile tugged at her lips. It was typical of Corrol, really, to surprise her. In ways she hadn't even imagined he would.
The matron knelt down into the soil and began to tenderly push the seeds into the ground. She didn't have to ask what sort of flowers they were. The two of them had shared the same favorite; the violet rose he had presented her on the day they had met.
They were engineered for their spectacular color. And their longevity compared to their mother species.
They would last.