Kolyat watched his father anxiously as he stared at his console. He had been like this ever since they had heard the news about the destruction about the Normandy. He had hardly moved, barely eaten or slept since, as they waited for news on their tiny, out-of-the-way planet. They had seen no evidence of any Reaper invasion themselves, all they knew came from sporadic editions of galactic news. It seemed that no one really knew what was happening; all the affected planets had been isolated from the rest of the galaxy.
Kolyat wasn't stupid. He had already worked out that Commander Shepard was much more than simply a commander to his father. His tone of voice was affectionate rather than respectful whenever he spoke of her, and his mood always significantly brightened whenever he received a message from her. He had also almost referred to her as "siha" rather than "Shepard" more than once, a name he knew his father would never use lightly.
As for Shepard's feelings, well, she had pulled some serious strings to get his father treated by the best doctors on the Citadel, and had also arranged and paid for the two of them to have an extended stay in an exclusive health resort while he recuperated. She had also waited with him as his father was in surgery; she was as anxious as he had been, even if he had done his best not to show it. It was clear to Kolyat -
She lays her hand in his as he lies in his hospital bed when she thinks I don't see. His fingers curl tightly over hers as soon as he wakes. His lips curve into a smile before he even opens his eyes
- that Shepard felt the same way about Thane.
A few months ago, the thought of his father with any other woman, especially a human who had punched him in the face the first time they met, would have made him furious. Drell couldn't forget, but they could to a certain extent, choose not to remember, simply by not focusing on a particular memory.
Thinking that his father would willingly put his mother - and himself - from his mind was almost as upsetting as being abandoned in the first place. But the time Kolyat had spent alone with his father had made him start to think differently.
Thane had been given a series of exercises to perform, so they had walked around the health resort together, occasionally exchanging pleasantries with the other residents, (mostly other drell because of the climate but there were also a smattering of other species) but usually they spoke among themselves, filling in years' worth of absence and distance. It was awkward at first, but they were both determined to reconnect. Realising how ill his father had been made him not want to remain angry with him.
His father spoke of his hunt for his mother's killers, something that he was fiercely glad to hear about, and he knew that Thane had never let himself forget her. Kolyat filled him in on all the parts of his childhood, and the work he was doing with C-Sec. Thane was eager to hear it, and Kolyat realised how much his father had missed him, and how much he regretted leaving him behind. His father was proud of his achievements in the Citadel as well, and Kolyat found himself basking in his praise, something he'd not had for too many years.
His father also spoke to him about Commander Shepard, and the mission he had been on with her and the rest of the crew. Kolyat started to understand how much her support and encouragement meant to Thane, how it was because of her that he had a father again. The thought of his father mooning about like a teenage boy became more amusing than nauseating.
His father grew stronger and they grew closer every day. Kolyat was the happiest he had been since that terrible day when he had come home to find that his mother dead and a hard-eyed, distant stranger in the place of his father.
Then they received news of the destruction of the Normandy, and the peaceful world they had constructed for themselves fell to pieces.
The newsreader's voice is quiet in the background. We ignore the news until the word 'Normandy' catches his attention. His head turns. His eyes widen as the news sinks in. His breath falters. His body tenses as if he has been dealt a mortal wound as is simply waiting to feel the pain. His lips part, but his despair is wordless.
Since then, they had been trying to find a way to leave the planet. Kolyat had communicated with some people he knew on the Citadeland his father had worked his way through his rather more substantial list of contacts. While they both knew of ships they could hire to pick them up and take them further away from the Reapers, they couldn't find anyone willing to fly them towards the besieged planets. Kolyat couldn't blame them, if he were honest. What little he knew about the Reapers terrified him.
But while they waited for news, his father grew more distant. He was extremely focused what little information they had, on each possible way they had of leaving the planet. He knew that his father would do everything in his power to reach Shepard's side. But under that fierce determination and the pure, cold anger he aimed towards the Reapers, Kolyat could sense his father's helplessness. Despite his best efforts Shepard, his Siha, could be anywhere, facing any danger. They didn't even know if she was still alive, though Kolyat would never speak that thought aloud to his father. He didn't need to be told. What they were doing had no bearing on her well-being or fate.
He stopped speaking to Kolyat, unless he was really insistent, ignored his exercises and started skipping meals in favour of staring intently at his console, as if Thane had forgotten that he was even there. That was a familiar sight, dredging up old resentments. Sometimes, before his father had left for good, it felt like he had spent half his time away on the mysterious business that had distressed his mother so. The other half of the time he had spent staring at his console, waiting for whatever information it was he needed so he could leave again.
"Dance crazy with me," I ask but he turns away…
It was almost as if the last few weeks, all the progress they'd made, hadn't happened. It hurt. Kolyat put up with nearly a week of this, before old anger and new fears got the better of him. It wasn't until his father ignored the food he had prepared and his reminders of the doctor's instructions, dismissing him with the same calm "not now, Kolyat," that he remembered so bitterly, as if he was still a little child who needed reprimanding, that he finally let his temper overwhelm him.
"No! Don't shut me out! Not again!"
Thane's head whipped around, eyes wide and remorseful, slipping immediately out of the role of the cool, determined hunter into the father he had become in the last few weeks. Kolyat knew that his father would be reliving the exact same memories as he had been, but instead of feeling angry, he would be feeling ashamed.
Thane rose up out of his seat and gripped his shoulder contritely. "Forgive me, Kolyat. I am not used to being able to confide in my grown-up son."
There were so many bitter remarks he could have flung at his father then. Instead he focused on the small, regretful smile set in his worried face and couldn't find it in himself to lash out. Instead, he said, "I know that Shepard… means a lot to you and that you are worried about her, but don't you think she would be angry to see how you're treating yourself? She went to a lot of trouble to make you better."
Thane sighed. "She would be furious," he agreed, before hesitating. "Kolyat, Shepard is not just my Commander, or my friend. She's…"
"She's your lover," Kolyat finished for him, only pulling a slight face. He doubted that that there was any child in the whole galaxy that wouldn't have done the same. No-one enjoyed talking about their parent's sex-life, especially to the parent. "I know."
"I thought you might have guessed," his father mused, clearly proud of his deductive reasoning skills. "And this doesn't bother you?"
And Kolyat knew that if he said; yes, it does bother me, his father would end his relationship with Shepard. During the weeks of his recovery, Thane had proved that he would do anything to rekindle their relationship and prove how important he was to him. If Kolyat asked him to do it, he would, even if it hurt him. A few months ago, he wouldn't have even thought about his answer.
But Kolyat had also had time to reflect since then. It was because of Shepard that he had Thane back in his life at all, and because of her that his father was healthy again. It was because of her that he was not dead or in jail. And well, he didn't know what it would do to his father to wish for her safety only to have to break her heart when they were reunited.
So he said, "It did at first, but not so much now. It's just…"
"What?" Thane asked, clearly concerned.
"Do you find all that hair weird?" he asked, bewildered. Humans weren't ugly, as such, but he found all that stuff coming out of their heads off-putting.
Thane laughed softly, his pupils dilating in a memory that Kolyat was glad he didn't share aloud. "A little, at first."
"Why don't you tell me about her?" Kolyat asked impulsively, seeing how much Thane's mood improved just thinking about her. "While we eat," he added decisively.
Thane paused, clearly trying to gauge whether or not he was truly comfortable hearing about Shepard, before nodding his agreement. "Thank-you, Kolyat."
He bowed his head while his father said a blessing over their food, an old childhood ritual he found oddly reassuring. Then he listened as his father described his relationship with Commander Shepard. It started off professional, Thane told him, but they both became curious of each other's cultures and backgrounds, and he found that she was someone he could admire. Shepard was driven and could inspire people to acts of incredible courage, his father continued. She truly cared for her people, and tried to improve things for all the people who asked for her help. A warrior. A protector. And someone who was just as lonely and as much in need of a friend as he had been. It was the strong bond that had grown between them that finally led to them falling in love.
"She looks at me and smiles, her teeth digging into her bottom lip. Her cheeks flush pink. She ducks her head, pushes her hair behind her ear. I reach out…"
"Dad!" Kolyat interrupted hastily, breaking him out of his memory. He really didn't need to know where that memory ended.
"Sorry, son," Thane apologised, but he didn't look sorry, and Kolyat realised that for the first time in years, he'd called his father 'dad.' He hadn't even realised he had done it, it felt so natural.
"Can I ask a question?" Kolyat asked after a moment.
"Of course," Thane replied.
"Do you… do you still miss mum?" he asked. He knew that Thane still thought about her, but that wasn't the same as missing her, especially now he had filled a huge gap in his life.
"Of course," he replied again, without hesitation. "I loved your mother with my whole body and soul. I love her memory still. But there is room for more than one love in a lifetime."
"I guess," Kolyat answered, reassured but confused by his response. Thane's eyes drifted back over to the console as they were suddenly reminded that the second love of his lifetime was somewhere far away, fighting against terrible odds. "She'll be okay," Kolyat offered, finding he needed the reassurance as much as his father did. "They didn't manage to kill her last time, right?"
"Not for long, no," Thane agreed, and the faith in his voice made Kolyat nervous.
That faith lasted until the intergalactic news reported the findings of a turian vessel that had arrived on earth to assist in the fight: a desolate, ruined wasteland with no signs of human life, and the burned-out shell of the SR2 Normandy.
Thane had been worried about Shepard ever since they had first seen the news, desperately so, Kolyat knew, but he had also truly believed that she was alive. Alive but missing, alive and in danger, alive and in need of his help, but alive. Whether it was faith in her abilities and resourcefulness, or because he was just unable to let himself think otherwise he didn't know, but that belief had sustained his father throughout the last few weeks.
Now, as they stared at the pictures of the eerily abandoned planet and the warped and ruined hull of the ship his father had served on, Kolyat saw that hope die in is father's face.
"Again, I was not there when my siha needed me the most," Thane murmured to himself, anguish twisting his voice.
"It wasn't your fault," Kolyat offered anxiously, that tone in is father's voice worrying him. He wasn't sure if he was talking about Shepard or his mother, but he was desperate to try and fix that broken note in his voice.
"I should have been there," Thane said, as if he hadn't heard.
Kolyat didn't know what to say to comfort him. Telling his father that he was glad that he hadn't been there, that he was grateful he hadn't died on an alien world wouldn't have helped anything. He knew there was nothing that he could say or do that would be of any help. He understood how helpless his father had felt, now.
Thane was still concentrating on leaving the planet, but the urgency had ebbed out of his actions, and as often as not Kolyat found him staring into the distance, lost in solipsism, remembering happier times with Shepard.
"She smiles at me. 'We did it,' she breathed. 'We all made it, Thane.' She steps closer, wraps her arms around my neck. Her eyelashes brush my cheek. She smells of sweat and blood, but sweet despite that. I hold her close; bend to press my lips to hers…"
Occasionally, he regretted asking his father to share things with him. Mostly, he knew that he needed someone to talk to. His grief and despair were overwhelming. If he had been like after his mother's death, Kolyat understood for the first time why Thane had thought he wasn't capable of raising a child.
He was lost, disconnected, no longer whole, and Kolyat didn't know how to make him feel better.
"She laughs as her turian friend approaches. 'Hey, Garrus, take our picture too!' I smile down at her. 'I don't need a picture to remember this, siha.' Her lips curve upwards, her voice teases, but her eyes are suddenly sad. 'We don't all have your memory, Thane.' I know she is already prepared to miss me. I know now that I cannot leave her alone."
"That's why you decided to get the surgery, huh?" Kolyat asked, when his father was done with the memory.
Thane blinked, slowly coming back to himself. "I… yes. I did not want to cause her grief. And she convinced me that you would want me around, too." Kolyat nodded, but his father wasn't looking. "I had resigned myself to my own death. Finding a reason to want to live only to have it taken from me is worse than that. I never expected to live my longer life alone."
"You're not alone!" Kolyat protested "I'm glad you got the surgery, too! I know you miss her but I want to help you, dad."
For a disconcerting moment, Kolyat thought his father was going to cry. Instead, he gripped his shoulder tightly. "Thank-you, son."
Finally, they managed to arrange passage to the Citadel and from there to earth with an investigation team. Kolyat wasn't sorry to leave. It had been a nice place to stay, at first, but now felt too isolated from the rest of the galaxy, and was far too much of a reminder of his father's grief. It didn't take them long to pack up their things; Thane always travelled light, and Kolyat had followed his example the first time he left home.
On the evening they were due to leave, when there was a knock on the door, Kolyat expected to see one of the other residents coming to say goodbye, or someone from resort coming to collect their bags.
The last person he expected to see standing there when he opened the door was Commander Shepard herself.
She looked exhausted, she had all the signs he'd learned from working with Bailey and other humans in C-Sec; black shadows under her eyes, pale skin, slumped shoulders and messy hair. Half of her face was discoloured with purple and yellow bruises, and the awkward way she carried herself led Kolyat to think that she was injured in other places, too. She looked like little more than willpower was keeping her standing; worse for wear but still alive.
Thane was going to be overjoyed. Kolyat was abruptly furious.
"Kolyat," Shepard said, after a moment passed with him just staring at her wordlessly. "Hi."
"Hi," he repeated angrily. "Is that it? After all these weeks? Would it have been so hard to send us a message just to let us know you were still alive? Do you know how worried he's been…?" All those weeks of fear and anxiety and uncertainty and she had been fine all along.
She grimaced, and her voice was remorseful. "I know, and I'm really sorry. After we lost the ship and the Reapers cut off all communications from earth there was no way for me to send a message. I tried to arrange for a message to be sent through a different channel, but I guess you didn't get it."
"No," he gritted out. "We didn't." He tried to hold onto his anger, but she looked so exhausted, and so genuinely apologetic, that he couldn't do it.
He stepped aside with an angry puff of air, most of his resentment expelled. "My father will want to see you right away."
"I want to see him, too," Shepard replied, her voice barely containing her eagerness. She made an odd contrast to the light, airy villa they had been staying in as she strode in, her armour clanking a little as she moved, her weapons threatening to knock over all the ornaments as she moved past them. A reminder of the war that had passed this planet by. "How's he been?"
"Physically, much better," Kolyat told her. "Otherwise…" he shrugged and knocked on his father's door. There was no answer, which hadn't been unusual since they had seen the last news report, so he pushed it open. His father was sat in his usual meditative pose, his eyes far away, lost in memory.
He heard Shepard take in a small, pained breath as she saw how lost he was, before she squeezed past him to enter the room. "Oh, love," she sighed, reaching out to take his hands in her smaller, oddly shaped ones. "Thane, I'm here."
Thane shuddered and sighed, coming back to himself with a start and staring at her as if she was the only thing in the whole galaxy. "Siha," he rumbled, his voice rough with emotion. "You're here… another memory?"
"Not yet," she replied, her voice shaking a little. She didn't resist as he drew her closer.
"I thought…" He clearly couldn't finish, couldn't explain the fear and helplessness he had gone through, but she didn't need him to elaborate.
"I know, I'm sorry." Her hands cradled his face. Thane's eyes closed at her touch.
"I saw the ship…"
"A diversion, so we could get to earth unnoticed." He all but pulled her into his lap as she added, "Poor EDI. She was so brave. Tali thinks she can restore her, though."
"What happened to earth? It looked…" His father was carefully ridding her of all her guns so that he could hold her properly as he spoke.
"Most people managed to hide or escape. The Reapers took some. We got most of them back, though."
"Why didn't you…?"
"I tried. There was no way for me to send a message from earth. I hoped that Liara would be able to trace me and send word to you, but…"
The speed of the conversation had left Kolyat, blinking, but the two of them seemed to follow it just fine, even as they twined themselves together. Thane's eyes hadn't left her face once, as if he was taking extra care to memorise her features. He lightly traced the bruise on her face, his expression caught somewhere between joy and concern
"You are never leaving me behind again," he told her sternly. "Never."
She shivered a little, but nodded her agreement. "Never," she agreed, a little breathlessly. "I missed you."
"And I you, siha. More than I can say." He cupped the back of her neck with his hand and drew her closer. Her hands trailed gently over his throat in a gesture so intimate that Kolyat was abruptly stricken with embarrassment.
"I'm afraid I lost your jacket," she told him, her voice husky in a way he had never heard from a human before. "I'm just going to have to borrow this one."
And suddenly they were kissing, inhaling each other in a way that let Kolyat know that he had been temporarily forgotten. He turned and left the house before he saw anything else.
Sometimes an eidetic memory was a curse.
He wandered around the resort for a couple of hours, talking to the other occasional resident, though there were less of them now, and more subdued. There was nothing like an intergalactic attack by sentient star-ships to ruin peoples' holidays. He called in at the shops, and walked in the dunes until it started to get dark.
When he got back, he found Shepard alone in the kitchen, wearing the light clothing that must have been under her armour. She jumped when he entered, hand automatically dipping for a gun she wasn't wearing. He'd forgotten that, while they had spent the last few weeks worrying about her, she had spent them fighting.
"Kolyat," she said, sounding relieved. "I thought you were asleep."
"I went for a walk. I didn't want to make a permanent memory of you reuniting with my father," he told her, a little snippily.
Her skin turned the soft pink colour humans went when they were embarrassed and she pushed her hair out of her face sheepishly. "Oh. That was probably a good call."
He tossed the bag he had picked up at the shop in front of her. "I picked up some food for humans while I was out." While she could have eaten what food they had, she probably wouldn't have enjoyed it.
"Thank-you, Kolyat," she said, sounding surprised. He shrugged a little. It had been an impulse, but one that he knew his father would appreciate. She reached for a fruit with a thick green rind and started peeling it with a knife. Oddly, the actual fruit was yellow.
"Where's my father?" he asked, hoping that Thane would find them and rescue him from this awkward situation.
"Asleep," she replied, popping a slice of the fruit in her mouth. There was another awkward silence. What was he supposed to say to the Spectre held in awe by half the galaxy and feared by the other half, and who just happened to be seeing his father?
"I wanted to thank you," she said suddenly. "For being there for Thane when I couldn't be."
"Of course I was there for him!" he protested. "He's my dad!"
She smiled widely, showing her teeth the way humans seemed to when they were very happy. "Even so, I'm grateful."
"Then I suppose I should thank you for persuading him to have the surgery," he replied, "And for, you know, keeping me out of jail and stuff."
He didn't sound particularly appreciative, but Shepard smiled again anyway. "You're welcome, Kolyat."
"That doesn't mean you can start acting like my mother or anything," he added quickly.
Shepard choked on the fruit she was eating. He was reassured by the fact she seemed as horrified by that idea as he was. "How about we just try being friends?" she offered.
He thought it over before nodding once. Seeing as she was probably going to be sticking around for a while, he was better off making the best of it. "So what are you doing next?" he asked.
Shepard's expression went very still and serious. "We're going after the Reapers."
Kolyat stared at her. "I thought you'd already beaten them."
She shook her head. "We managed to drive them off, but they're still out there. And they always come back. They need to be stopped."
"That's going to be dangerous, isn't it?" he asked quietly. He'd just got his dad back, and back happy. He didn't want to lose that again.
"Yes," Shepard answered honestly. "But I have a good crew, and we've all survived the impossible before. I'm hopeful, Kolyat. And afterwards, we'll have plenty of time to get to know each other."
She did look confident, Kolyat realised. That was probably why people followed her. But it was no guarantee.
"You can try a piece if you like," Shepard offered, and he realised that he had been staring rather intently at the fruit she was eating. He took a piece to be polite, and nearly spat it back out. The taste wasn't unpleasant, but it was very slimy in texture.
His expression made Shepard laugh, and her laughter made Thane smile as he entered the kitchen. "What's going on in here?"
"I don't think Kolyat likes mango much," Shepard said, smiling back at him. It was an entirely different smile than the ones she had given him. It was softer, warmer, more intimate, or as well as he could judge human smiles.
Thane shook his head with a smile. "I could have told you that, son," he remarked. He looked more at peace than he had for awhile. He sat next to Shepard, their shoulders brushing together, heads slightly turned towards each other. He suspected that they were holding hands beneath the table. It was almost sweet. Nauseating, but sweet.
They didn't have much time left together, Kolyat knew, before his father and Shepard left to continue fighting. But he had one evening left to enjoy his father's happiness, and to start to get to know Shepard. The memories would be enough to last until they were together again. It was more than he had ever hoped to have.
And so ends my fic of two parts. I really hope we see Kolyat in ME3, especially if Shep has romanced Thane. I have always wondered how he would take it. Hope you enjoyed this, and any reviews are welcome.