Author's Note: Written for the September Writing Contest for the Aria's Afterlife forum (insert shameless plug here). I rather not say much for fear of spoilers. So I will say the usual: The characters, setting, and world are not mine, they belong to Bioware. All I own are the ideas and the story which, in the end, are rightfully Bioware's.
Can We Dream?
"What is it like to dream?"
The question caused the humanoid male to cough and splutter in front of me. His eyes met mine: organic to synthetic. "Why do you ask?" he responded, his aquamarine eyes meeting my luminous.
I could not say. I uttered, "I have heard a lot about this 'state'. I am curious about its effects towards an organic being."
The man before me shook his head, whether it is in annoyance or humour I did not know. I could not comprehend the subtle nuances of the human's gestures. His wry smile or this thin brow, taut or relaxed in position. His head careened backwards, forcing his back into the chair. "What have you heard?" he asked me now, expecting to find an answer to his query.
How could I refuse this human who has given me so much? Was it wrong to keep my feelings from him? That I could never be the flesh and bone organic that he deserves? These dark secrets held our relationship ransom and I did not want to disrupt the already strenuous balance. However, I did feel obliged to answer his question. "There were a few geth roaming about… telling the quarians why they cannot dream." I shook my head; what a silly organic gesture. "I had thought, perhaps I was missing something vital, something viable to my understanding of organic behaviour and—"
"You don't have to say anymore," the pilot replied, his hand wafting towards the crystalline glass of wine. The crimson liquid swirled and was then ingested. "It does not matter, I love you for who you are."
I could not believe his claim. "But how can I have longevity with you in our relationship when there are others who can experience things with you that I cannot? How can I be sure that your affections will remain intact through this?" An audible sigh escaped the human's lips as he turned to the waiter who was passing by. The royalties that the Normandy's crew had been given after the Battle of Earth made this lavish Citadel living possible. Jeff never talked about what he had gained though, only the prices we had paid for it.
I suppose this was an organic nature, to reminisce over the past. Perhaps this was what this illusive 'dream' was: the ability to remember events of our past and treat them with equal or more importance than the present.
"Will that be all, sir?" the waiter said, breaking me from my cognitive process. Jeff looked to me and when I had nodded in agreement, he sent the waiter off. I assumed a generous tip had been given for the older gentleman left with a wide smile on his face.
The dim aura of neon accompanied us as we continued onward to our apartment. From the metallic walkways bounced sharp clicks of our heels. With every step I pondered Jeff's dismissiveness towards my acquisitions. Maybe it was that these thoughts did not matter, or perhaps that my questions were not something he enjoyed listening to. That seemed like an acceptable answer, for the way he brushed off the comment earlier at dinner had suggested so. For that I decided to ask forgiveness.
His brow raised at my comment. "Why do you say that?" he asked, not forcefully but with reassurance. His grip tightened on my hand in comfort.
I thought on his response and came to an honest conclusion. "It appeared, at least to me, that you were worried about what I had said earlier."
Jeff scoffed. "I didn't say—"
"But you implied," I insisted, sensing his agitation increase. "It is a logical reply as well, I do not doubt that. No man wants his woman to question whether or not he is loyal to her or if they will stay together long. It is a common worry for both parties and one that should be considered in private, not a public affair—"
I did not listen to him. "I even considered what you might say after, how you would place your hand on my shoulder and your lips to mine." My hand left his. "We would break, stare as the pale light above shone with elegance around us. In that time you would propose just like you did days after the Crucible had fired. 'Stay with me,' you would repeat again—"
"EDI . . ." he persisted, I did not indulge.
"You would repeat again," I reinforced through repetition, "'I want to be with you for the rest of my life. Reapers be damned, synthetics be damned, I don't care about society. All I care about is you.'" I turned around, observing the faceless couples who clasped each other for warmth. "I would respond to you with affection, not affliction, though my mind would be in constant doubt. How can you love someone – something – like me when my species is hated by yours?" I was drawing stares now, their affluent gazes piercing my metallic flesh. Though my voice remained level, my thoughts raged in my cerebral cortex. "How can you keep your lofty image as the 'Pilot of the Normandy' when your bride is but a coarse shell of steel and electricity?"
My laments were ceased by Jeff's sturdy hand. "EDI, that is enough!" Silence persisted after the comment. Eyes were on us now. Jeff looked to his hand clutching my arm and loosened his grip. Realizing the display he had caused, he snorted and kicked at the ground. "You don't have to make such a damn big scene," he said, his voice almost a whisper. He left me. He did not have to say where he was headed, for he had nowhere else to go. I would see him again in bed later that night but not like it had been in the past. At least, not for a while.
He needs time to relax, I told myself. That is all. He is stressed. But I could not bring myself to believe those bolstering excuses. I had caused his outburst: me and me alone.
Perhaps it is another organic axiom, I pondered once more as I walked through the streets lit with propaganda. Vexation over a relationship should be a private affair, not a public one.
I noted the rule in my data banks.
The air was taut with celebratory praises.
I was in a room lit dim by the shrouded shapes of, what appeared to be, humanoid figures. Huge grins filled their faces, smiles that danced around like the candles flickering before me. Confusion seeped through my consciousness as my head turned not of my own accord.
Beside me was a woman - around the age of forty – with an insatiable grin that bred warmth through my body. Her gaze shifted towards the others yet mine still remained on her. I wished to witness the others around me, wanted to gaze at their expressions to find meaning in the madness but I was not allowed. My mind was stuck on rails: there was only one direction I could follow and that was of the creator's intent. Yet who had created this facade?
The woman's emerald eyes returned to mine, her cheeks blushed accenting her short and well kept chestnut hair. "You have other guests than me, sweetie," she said as her hand reached out to the top of my vision and twisted me around.
The others present chuckled at this display.
"Now, you ready for your song?" the woman to my right asked. My head shook up and down. Yes.
"Okay, so everyone will sing together now. Ready? One, two, three…"
All together, the humans present began to harmonize in that amber room lit by the soft fire burning before me. "Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday, dear John." John? "Happy Birthday to you!" My vision shifted a few centimetres downward before a torrent of air escaped my lips and rushed over the garnet flame. Despite my intent, a single flame remained: persistent against my whims.
But it was not strong enough for the woman beside me, who snuffed it out with a quick, sharp blow. My eyes fell on her, warmth flooding through a voice that was not my own. "Thank you mommy," the voice that emanated from my perspective said. Glee was the most tangible emotion displayed throughout.
In the now ashen and shadowed room the woman placed her crescent lips to my forehead. "I will always be here for you, John, never forget that." She left my head as the lights flickered awake to present the rest of the cream coloured room. Though this disembodied voice did not reply to the woman's comment, I somehow knew that the comment had been received. If this boy I was inhabiting were to speak, he would utter, "I know, mommy."
"Enough of that now, dear," a more sturdy and masculine voice stated. My head whirled behind me to see another, a strong farmer with soiled hands. One of those hands was placed on my shoulder as the broad, bearded man began to speak. "Go on John, you don't want to neglect your guests. We Shepards are known for our hospitality." Nuzzling my cheek against his dirtied hand, I turn back to my guests.
The vision ceased. I woke up.