A/N: So sorry it's been so long, but here's an EXTRA long (for this story anyway) chapter for you guys for being so patient! Lots of head canon here, I'm pretty much making this stuff up as I go along, so if this chapter is bad, I'm sorry. If it's good, GREAT! :D If you like it, fave it, follow it, whatever, leave a review to say why you did. I will love you forever? :P lol... Enjoy!
Grace smiled at Daela as she entered the room, handing a cup of paja juice to Kolyat. She sat back down in front of her own cup, and flashed a bright, almost conspiratory smile at both of them as she reached for a sweet roll.
Grace wasn't exactly sure how to get the conversation going, but the silence was becoming slightly uncomfortable for her, so she grasped at the first neutral thought that came to mind. "So Daela, how is your father doing? Last I heard his business was doing well. No more pirates, I hope." she grimaced slightly at the thought, but a polite smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she looked to her friend.
Daela quirked her head to the side slightly for a moment before she responded, "He's doing quite well, thank you for asking. And no, no more pirates. Let's hope it stays that way." She turned her gaze to Kolyat and spoke once more, "Kolyat, how is Sere Thane and his wife? We were just talking about them before you arrived, I believe Grace was curious about them." She waited until Kolyat turned to Grace before she leveled a wink at Grace, then returned her attention to the young drell.
Grace flushed slightly, turning to Kolyat and cocking her head minutely to listen to his response.
Kolyat responded to Daela first, "Father and Sharon are fine, thank you Daela." His eyes flicked between Grace and Daela's eyes curiously as he continued, "What were you two discussing?"
Daela spoke before Grace had a chance to take a breath, "I told her that Sere Thane re-married after your mother died, and that his new wife was human. I believe she was about to ask about her when you pinged at the door." She glanced at Grace, who reluctantly nodded her assent.
Grace would never get used to the frank honesty that was so commonplace amongst the drell. So very few of them held secrets from their friends or loved ones. A bold question asked, a truthful answer given. It was as if there was no shame in anything they did. Perhaps this was true, but she'd never thought to ask, and it was so strange to her, the complete transparency of this species. Every other species she'd ever encountered besides turians had secrets, told lies; but amongst the drell there was no such thing. It wasn't an honor-driven honesty, like the turians, it was just something about their culture. She tucked the thought away to ask Daela about it later.
Kolyat turned his gaze towards her, curiosity lighting his eyes. "What would you like to know about her?"
She cocked an eyebrow at him, worry lining her face. She held her hands up for a moment defensively. "It's alright, I don't mean to pry. I was merely curious."
Now he raised an eyebrow at her. His questioning eyes flickered to Daela, who smiled as she answered his unspoken question. "Humans are quite a bit less... open than we are. She's just trying to be polite by human standards."
His brow raised impressively further as he spoke, "But Sharon has always been open with me, and she's human."
Daela's pondered for a moment before responding. "Yes... perhaps it's because she knew Sere Thane for such a long time, she'd become accustomed to the drell manner of seeing things by the time she met you. She worked with him for years before he trusted her enough to introduce her to you. You were too young to remember what she did for him. If it weren't for Sharon, your father wouldn't have been around long after Irikah died. I was young myself, and I could tell that much."
Kolyat grimaced as he thought on Daela's words. He turned his attention to Grace and his face brightened. "You need not worry about offending me, Grace; I have nothing to hide, and neither does Sharon. If you want to know more about her, all you need do is ask."
The sincerity on his face disarmed her, and she sighed a bit before nodding. She started shyly, "Alright. Well... I was more just curious about the erm... Heh, I don't know what to call it. "Siha phenomenon" I suppose would be the only thing I can think of. Daela was trying to explain it, and she'd mentioned that your father had met two 'siha's' in his lifetime, which was rare, especially with one of them being human. I'm still not entirely sure I understand what that title really means, other than an avatar of Arashu. Perhaps you could explain it?" She flushed slightly as she voiced what she felt to be a rather brazen question.
He smiled as he saw the lovely shade of red her cheeks turned, and took a breath, letting it out as he considered how to answer her question. "A siha is a woman that protects the weak or defenseless, a powerful figure. She is beautiful, passionate, caring, strong, and extremely capable of handling difficult situations. She has a fiercely loyal and honorable personality, and does everything possible to protect those she cares about, whether they be friends or loved ones. In a sense, she is a Goddess in her own right." His eyes shone as he watched her surprise grow as she listened to his description... of her.
She looked down at her folded hands, taking a steadying breath as she mulled over his words. She kept her head down as she spoke. "And you think this... of me?" She looked at him as she finished her question, saw surprise register in his face, before his eyes flickered to Daela, raising a brow accusingly at her.
Daela shrugged. "If you don't want me to show your messages to those they speak about, you should have said so in the message." Was all she offered in explanation.
Kolyat continued to gaze at Daela, annoyance set in the firm line of his jaw. Grace wanted to diffuse the situation, and though it would be a bit of a bold move, she made a decision. She brought her fingertips up to his chin, gently moving his face so as to force him to look at her. "Don't blame Daela. Answer my question... Please." She saw his jaw muscles twitch minutely and lowered her hand back to her lap, though she kept his gaze, and raised an eyebrow as she waited for him to respond.
His eyes softened as he looked at her, and he sighed heavily. "Yes. I thought it from Daela's description of you, and when I saw you, it was a confirmation of everything she described. I could see your spirit, your joy, your strength in displaying your joy at experiencing something new and wonderful. It enraptured my soul and struck everything else from my mind in that one moment. I've never experienced anything like it." He hesitated for a moment, searching her face for some hint of her thoughts. "If this makes you uncomfortable, I'm sorry. But I'm not sorry for telling you."
Grace gave him a small smile. She wasn't sure what to think. For him, this wouldn't be so sudden; he'd had time hearing about her, direct descriptions of her from Daela's perfect memories. But she had just met him, and though he seemed nice, she wanted to get to know him. He was attractive, but she knew next to nothing about him. "Hmm. Would you allow me the opportunity to get to know you better? I don't mean to sound rude, but... I've just met you. I'm willing to keep an open mind, and I understand you've had much longer to get to know me by proxy of Daela's memories, but I've not had the same opportunity. As flattering as your declaration is, I need to know you better to find whether I could ever respond in kind. It would give you an opportunity to find out if I am who you think I am as well. I think we both deserve that chance."
He smiled softly as he considered her words. "I would be honored to get to know you personally, Grace Shepard, and anything you would like to know about me, just ask."
Grace's lips quirked into a smirk, and she bowed her head quickly in acknowledgment. "Alright then. First question: What do you do for a living?"
Kolyat smiled genuinely at her question, his eyes lighting up with enthusiasm as he began to speak, "I'm an artist. I've been under the Compact for many years now, and I help keep the murals around Karlah bright and fresh, despite the humidity. In return, they provide for all my needs. I also produce my own art, and run a small gallery from my home."
Grace grinned at this. "Really? I'd love to see your gallery sometime. What kinds of things to you paint?"
"I'd love to show it to you. We can go see it now, if you'd like." He looked to Daela guiltily, almost as if he'd forgotten she was there, "And if Daela can spare you, of course."
Daela smirked at him, shaking her head at his eagerness. "I'll come with, if it's all the same to you, Kolyat. You've been babbling on and on about your new pieces, it's about time I went and saw them. Give me a moment to get ready, and we can go – That is, if you want to, Grace." Her gaze shifted to her human friend uncertainly.
"Yes, I'd love to go. After we get back, I'd really like to get some rest though. The adrenaline from travel is starting to wear off a bit." She smiled at Daela sheepishly.
Daela chuckled and nodded. "Sounds good, I'll just be a moment then." She stood and turned towards the stairs, heading up them quickly.
Grace felt a light pressure on her shoulder, and turned to see Kolyat tapping there softly.
"To answer your other question, I paint or draw whatever I see that I find striking enough to inspire me, whether it be a landscape, or a person. Having perfect memory helps." He chuckled lightly.
Grace smiled at him. "Well, I'm looking forward to seeing your work. Though, I suppose I've already seen some of it on the way here, haven't I?"
He nodded. "Yes, every mural in Karlah has at least some of my paint on it. There are other artists here, of course, but we all work collaboratively on the public murals. Each artist paints whatever aspect of the mural they are most proficient at. I usually paint any faces or hands in a mural."
Surprise registered on her face as her mind sifted through the images she passed on her way to Daela's house. "Really? I remember seeing several faces that were quite well done. That was you?"
He nodded once more. "Yes. Every drell has different memories they are most skilled at recalling the details of. Some remember every detail of mundane things like architecture or everyday objects, others remember details in landscapes, while others, like me, remember faces exceedingly well. We all remember everything, but some parts of memories are stronger than others for each of us. For instance..."
He turns his head to the side and closes both sets of eyelids, "you have crystal blue eyes, flecks of gray around the outer iris, thin rings of sea green near the pupil. Long eyelashes sweep out from them, and your eyelids bear a dusting of smokey black pigment that you are very precise in applying, as if it is practiced daily. Carefully shaped eyebrows. Your hair is the color of night, and you frequently tuck it behind your ears because it keeps falling in a thin veil across your face, and it annoys you. You have full lips, tinted with a light blush of lipstick. High cheekbones. Your cheeks turn a lovely coral color when you blush. Your skin is lightly tanned and looks smooth as porcelain. You have a thin... cute nose..." he grins at this, "a strong jaw, but feminine. A small, slightly pointed chin. A... medium-long neck. Average-sized ears, which are pierced in several places, though you only wear one ring in each ear. There is a small birth mark just behind your left ear."
He smiled and opened his eyes as he turned back to her. "So, how close was I?" He grinned devilishly at the look of utter shock on her face at being described in such detail.
It took her a few moment to gather her wits enough to respond. "That... was incredibly detailed. Amazing. Do you remember everyone like that?"
He made a bit of an unsure face, then smiled again. "Sometimes. Usually only if I spend a lot of time with the person, or if I've studied the holo thoroughly enough. It takes concentration to ingrain that many details. While we remember everything, we often filter out unneeded details to stay sane. Otherwise there would be too much information in each memory. While we can recall the details we've blocked if we concentrate, it isn't often needed, unless our jobs require such an effort."
She raised an eyebrow. "What kinds of jobs would require that kind of detail?"
"Information broker. Assassin. Teacher or Professor. Scientist. Any kind of specialist or agent, really. I can recall Daela in the same way. As well as my father, Sharon, and my mother; as well as several dignitaries that I've had to paint over the years."
Daela appeared from upstairs and grinned. "I'm ready, have fun while I was gone?"
Grace had looked at Daela as she heard her enter the room, and nodded enthusiastically. "Yes! Well, at least I did. I think it was more work for him than anything." She grinned at Kolyat, who returned the grin.
"Not at all, I enjoyed it." he said easily.
Grace got a bit of a guilty look on her face as a thought hit her. "Could you do what you did for me for Daela? You said you remembered her the same way."
Before Kolyat could respond, Daela cut in. "Ohhh, did he remember the details of your face with his eyes closed for you?"
Grace nodded and smiled. "Yes, I've never been described so thoroughly before. It was fascinating. Though it did make me feel a bit self-conscious." She chuckled a bit and blushed.
Kolyat looked the picture of remorse as he spoke, "I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable, si – Grace. I'm truly sorry if I did." He grimaced slightly at his slip, hoping she didn't notice.
Her eyes flickered to his for just a moment, before falling to her hands. No need to apologize, I wasn't uncomfortable, Kolyat. I didn't mean to imply that. I'm just not used to being looked at like that, I guess." She offered him a small smile of reassurance to him. "And I still want to hear you give a description of Daela." Her smile turned playful at this, and she motioned to Daela to sit next to her, then to Kolyat to turn around.
Kolyat complied, as did Daela, though as she sat, she grabbed a datapad from a nearby table. Grace gave her an confused look, but Daela held a finger over her lips in the universal sign for silence as she grinned. She fiddled with the datapad as Kolyat sighed, then took a breath and began to rattle off what turned out to be an even more detailed description of Daela than Grace had received, mostly due to the multitude of color variations in different parts of her scales. Meanwhile, Daela handed Grace the datapad, and Grace blushed as she read what was written on it.
So has he declared his undying love for you yet, or does that come after he gets you into his giant house?
Grace's eyes were almost as big as her friend's as she looked at her in shock. Daela grinned impishly and nodded her head towards the datapad, waiting on Grace's reply. Grace rolled her eyes, and shook her head as she cleared the screen and began to type her reply.
NO! Neither. I hope. Don't get me wrong, I like him... Well, I like what I've seen so far at least. But it's WAY too early for that, don't you think? We just met, for fuck's sake. And he has a big house? I guess the hanar appreciate his work more than I thought.
She handed the datapad back to Daela, and tuned into Kolyat's voice as he continued his description of Daela's cheek frills. She didn't realize she'd closed her eyes while she listened, until she felt something prod her arm, and her eyes flew open to Daela poking her with the corner of the datapad. Daela grinned at her, and added a line of text to the datapad before handing it to her.
You LIKE him, huh? Haha! Well I'm glad, he's a good match for you, I think. I'm happy for you. And no, it's not too early by drell standards. If he hasn't told you yet, he will.
And yes, the hanar pay him and all the artists quite a bit for helping maintain the beauty of Karlah. It's actually quite a prestigious job for us, only the most skilled artisans are allowed to work on restoration and construction of the city.
Ha! you like listening to his voice, don't you? I saw you smiling with your eyes closed, and don't think I'll ever forget it either.
Grace flushed beet red as she read, and gaped at Daela after she finished. She mouthed "WHAT?!" silently at her friend. Daela burst into silent laughter and pointed at the datapad.
Oh my GODS, Daela, are you serious? Please tell me you're not serious. I mean, I don't mean to be insulting or anything if this is a part of your culture, but it would be WAY too soon by human standards if he did... 'declare himself' this quickly. How do your people deal with this? What if the other person doesn't like the one that 'declares themselves'?
And good for him. Glad he's well compensated.
And... yes, ok, I like listening to him. He has a soothing voice. Is that so wrong? Doesn't mean I'm in love with him or anything, I just like the sound of his voice. Sheesh. I like the sound of your voice too, you don't hear me declaring myself to YOU, do you? -sigh-
She handed the datapad back to her friend and let her head fall into her hands, returning her attention to Kolyat's voice. She had to admit, she really did like listening to his voice. It was more than just soothing, it was... melodic. Like listening to water speak. She shook her head and blushed, slightly embarrassed at the thought. Suddenly, he stopped speaking, and turned back around.
"Satisfied?" he asked with a smile.
"Yes, very. Quite an accurate description, naturally." Grace smiled in return. She heard Daela huff impatiently beside her.
"Kolyat, let's get going. We'll meet you outside, I need to talk to Grace for a few minutes. We'll take my skycar when we're done."
Kolyat nodded. "Very well, I'll see you outside." he stood and bowed, then walked to the door, palmed the interface, and stepped outside.
The second the doors finished closing, Daela shoved the datapad at Grace. Grace looked at her friend, confused. "I thought we were going to talk, not type?"
Daela sighed exasperatedly. "He can hear us, Grace." she whispered.
Grace formed her mouth into a large "O", and turned her eyes down to the datapad.
Yes, it's quite normal for drell to declare themselves this quickly. And rejection never happens, unless the other party is already bonded to someone else. The attraction is based on pheromones and genetics amongst drell, and pheromones alone when it comes to other species. So, if he does indeed 'declare himself' as you like to say, then it's because you are compatible on a very base level. Natural instinct will eventually take hold of both of you. There is no reversing it, and there is no ignoring it, unless you just don't ever meet. Once you've met, it's set. Besides, you already find him attractive, so what are you worried about?
Yes, the hanar are very generous.
If you do like the sound of his voice, that's one of the first signs of the initial bond forming. You liking my voice is just because we already share a bond of friendship, and I somehow DOUBT you like my voice as much as you like his. Let me guess, you're already attributing the sound of his voice in your head to something poetic or otherwise dramatic, am I right?
Grace didn't even bother giving Daela the satisfaction of seeing her flustered emotions reflected on her face, she began typing her reply immediately.
So, what you're saying is, I am somehow 'destined' to be bonded to him, regardless of what I may choose? That, because I'm not already bonded to someone in that way, I will be bonded to him, no matter what? That sounds a bit like entrapment to me. I mean yes, I like him, but still, Gods, that's... I've never heard of that kind of thing happening. Don't get me wrong, I've heard of bondmates before, but nothing that happens THIS fast.
Hell, how did you know that? I had just thought of his voice as sounding like... like water talking. And melodic. Is that normal? Wait, let me rephrase that. SHOULD I be thinking that? Wait... oh forget it, here.
She handed Daela the datapad, blushing profusely. Daela's grin faltered for a moment as she read, then grew as she neared the end of the text. She looked up at Grace and a tear fell from her eye, and she smiled at her like she was looking at the most beautiful thing in the galaxy. She began typing a response on the datapad, even as Grace's face contorted with confusion.
Grace, if you're already thinking of him like that, then yes, your destiny, as you put it, lies with him, in some way. Just spend time with him, trust me; it won't feel like entrapment as time goes on. The happiest people I know got together this way. The only reason I'm not with anyone is because it hasn't happened to me yet. I am so completely happy for you two, and being here to watch it fills my heart with joy.
She handed the datapad to Grace and laughed, hugging her friend before she was able to read it. She quickly retreated, pointing to the text as she grinned at the bewildered look on Grace's face. Grace read the paragraph, then read it again, blinking several times as she tried to digest the reality of the situation.
She looked at Daela. "O-kay... we'll see, I guess." was all she could manage.
Daela grinned happily and hugged her again, and this time Grace returned the embrace, albeit weakly. Daela broke the embrace and stepped back, till holding Grace's shoulder as she spoke excitedly, "Alright, let's go see his gallery, shall we?" Her smile was impossibly wide as her eyes crinkled to slits in happiness. "Go on, I'll grab the skycar and meet you two out front." She waved her hand towards the door as she headed towards the garage.
Grace turned and attempted to steel her nerves – and her face – before heading towards the door, palming the interface, and walking towards Kolyat outside.