Title: Omega Chronicles -3- Open Wounds
Game: Mass Effect
characters: FemShep, Aria T'Loak, Mordin, others
pairing: FemShep/Aria T'Loak
Disclaimer: Mass Effect and its assets belong to Electronic Arts and BioWare
Omega Chronicles -3- Open Wounds
Shepard woke up with a jerk and it took her brain a couple of seconds to remember where she was and what she was doing there. As her eyes darted around the small, dark room she spotted the familiar shape of Aria sitting on the couch, a padd in her hands, a concentrated look on her face. The human imagined that Aria kept a change of clothes in here, since she was perfectly dressed in a fresh outfit.
Shepard got up from the bed and walked over to her, picking up her uniform along the way and getting dressed herself, before sitting down next to the Asari. "Interesting read?"
"Very. Apparently some smugglers have decided to go behind my back for their business and will be wiped out within the next few hours because of that. Since I am in such a great mood I won't even torture them, I'll just execute them and be done with it. Maybe I will leave a couple of corpses as a memento to the other ones who might have silly ideas in the future. I'm still thinking the details through." A wicked smile graced her lovely lips and the Commander couldn't help feeling a familiar hunger spread inside of her.
She kept it at bay and smiled back. "That sounds like a hoot. Would you like for me to tag along? I still got time left in my shore leave and nothing better to do. Well, if you exclude
" Her eyebrow wiggled for a moment, making Aria laugh low in her throat. The Commander felt a sudden, almost violent flashback hitting her. It was so visually vague but so emotionally powerful. Warm, passionate colours dancing together, tasting each other, bleeding into each other, exchanging silent vibes of pure love. It was as if a fist was clutching her heart in a most delightful way. Where was that coming from? She shrugged it off.
Shepard looked at Aria intensely for a moment, then moved her body on the couch and lay down on her back, leaning her head on Aria's lap, ever so casually, her eyes never leaving the Queen's, her smile never leaving her face. It was such a familiar gesture and the human could see the slight surprise on the Asari's face. Then as per usual she quickly regained her composure. She stared at the Commander for a few seconds, as if evaluating her next move. Then her hand came up to caress her hair, slowly, gently, in a display of sweetness that touched Shepard deeply. Their eyes shared their souls, bared their souls, in silence.
They stayed like that for several minutes, just enjoying each other in the simplest way, both taking a break from their responsibilities, their duties. The entire galaxy was outside, irrelevant for the time being. The Queen's fingers, not yet covered by her black gloves, delighted in the soft texture of the human's hair.
In a low whisper, almost afraid of breaking this heavenly spell, Shepard spoke. "You are beautiful."
Aria had heard those words directed at her countless times in her long life, from lips trembling with adoration, from livid envious bitches, from smooth con artists. Somehow this time they touched her. Or better, she allowed them to touch her.
They were both scoundrels and they knew it, they were both ruthless and they knew it, they both did not care for anything but their own code, twisted and warped as it might be. There was no need for masks between them, there was no need for pretend. There seemed to be a mutual, deep, frank understanding that they accepted each other for who they really were. It was an intimate form of certainty that severely lacked in both their lives otherwise.
The old Asari smiled and commented in her most sarcastic tone. "How adorable."
Shepard brought her hands to her chest mockingly covering a wound to her heart. "Ow." They both grinned.
The Commander put her hand behind Aria's neck and lifted her body enough to reach her lips and capture them in soft, lingering kisses, over and over again. She felt the Queen's arm coming around her back to sustain part of her weight in a loose embrace. She stopped, their lips a mere breath away, she fixed her eyes on the Asari's. Her hand let go of the Queen's neck and she placed her palm where Aria's heart was beating so strongly. She left it there for a second, then she moved her forefinger to touch Aria's brow. She whispered on her blue lips. "You are beautiful."
Aria found herself mesmerized against her will by the sheer intensity in the Commander's eyes. Then she tried shaking herself out of it. How could this young, underdeveloped, insignificant human come here and say such things, and kiss her this way, and make her laugh, and waste her precious Serrice Ice Brandy, and give her such breathtaking pleasure, and unconsciously declare her love for her on top of everything
how dare she? The Queen wanted nothing more than to actually charge her biotics and throw her out and never see her again, and quite possibly hurt her physically in the process
No. Not really. That's not what she wanted. That was a fašade that had no place right here, right now. But she just couldn't help herself, centuries of suspicion, circumspection, and being en garde all the time weren't easy to shed, and besides she had no intention of shedding anything. She whispered back on the human's lips, casually, lightly brushing against them. "You've already said that." Her voice betrayed a slight, tender note that would have passed unnoticed to anyone.
But Shepard wasn't 'anyone'. She heard it loud and clear. So she stood absolutely still, a fire burning deep inside her eyes, brightly visible to the Asari. She slowly put her hand back on her neck, caressing her folds, knowing perfectly well how sensitive they were, letting her fingers trace them, one by one, from the base up and back down again, applying just the right amount of pressure to make it into a sexual innuendo instead of a sweet, inconsequential caress. And she waited
"Flattery won't get you anywhere, Commander." Their lips still had barely a wisp of air between them. "And neither will your divinely skilled attempt at arousing me
" Shepard was still waiting, patiently
Aria closed her eyes and the human felt her inside, a wave of warm wind sprawling, carrying her, enveloping her, making her breathless and then closing in around her in a cocoon of colours and heat. In her mind, the Queen's voice spoke slowly, clearly, in a tone that reverberated to Shepard's core. 'If you ever betray me, Shepard. If you ever even think of it. Your death will be the slowest, most painful I will ever take the time to deal. With my own hands.'
Shepard tightened the embrace, gently guiding Aria's face to get buried in her neck.
'I would kill myself before betraying you.'
'I will hold you to that.'
A small grin appeared on the Commander's face. 'You can hold me anytime you want.'
'Funny. Are all humans smartasses, or is it just you?'
'There is no one like me.' Shepard's mind created a small vortex of colours that wrapped around Aria's consciousness, making her feel strangely safe.
'We'll see about that.'
The Queen's physical voice rang in the real world as she retreated from the human's mind. "If you really want to help with those annoying smugglers, I'll get you some gear."
"That's generous, but I'd rather use my own armor."
"You can't go around carrying out illegal activities in the heart of Omega donning your Alliance outfit, now, can you?"
"You have a point."
The armor Aria had provided was good quality, but it somehow felt a bit uncomfortable to Shepard. Nevertheless, she adapted and she was actually looking forward to some action as the small team made its way through the long abandoned mining tunnels in the bowels of the asteroid. The air was humid and it stuck to the human's face, she thought that it would be nice to be an Asari right now, since they did not sweat.
They were completely silent, moving carefully in order to avoid any noise that would give their approach away. They came to the end of a tunnel that opened into a big space, the natural ceiling high above their heads. A lot of old, battered crates were scattered about and there were rusty tools lying on the ground, covered by a fine dust.
Aria looked around, taking in every centimetre of rock. "This is it. They'll attack us here. Get into position."
Her squad of Batarians and Turians immediately carried out her order and they each chose a cover, getting their weapons ready. Shepard stayed at her side.
They heard the faint sound of small rocks rolling and all turned instinctively in that direction. Anto was the first to spring out of cover and he started firing mercilessly. In the fraction of a second all Hell broke loose. Aria's biotics flared up, her whole arms enveloped in blue swirls, she put up a barrier to stop the bullets before retaliating by sending three smugglers to crash against a rock wall.
The Commander got down on one knee and started shooting her enemies carefully: one shot, one kill, as per usual. Her finger sure on the trigger of her custom Carnifex, she was truly enjoying the target practice. In the heat of the battle, she was moving swiftly from crate to crate for cover, further from the Queen with every step, but always making a mental note of where she was. The soldier was in the middle of such a move when a movement out of the corner of her eye got her attention. She turned her head back to the entrance of the huge cave to notice that there was a well disguised hiding place right behind them, just above the mouth of the tunnel that led them here, where a smuggler was aiming a sniper rifle at Aria's head, waiting for her to be in clear sight. Shepard realized that somehow the Asari hadn't yet seen the threat. She quickly saw that the rock behind which he was hiding would make it impossible for her to take him down from her position. She didn't even have to think about it, she automatically sprang to her feet and covered the space between her and Aria, the Asari's eyes going wide as she looked at her running wildly towards her. Shepard used all of her momentum to impact on the Queen and literally launched her a few yards away, just as the sharp sound of a shot told her that she wouldn't be able to get her own body out of the way.
The bullet sent her flying in a grotesque parable through the air, the force of it actually lifting her off her feet. The Commander could swear she felt it penetrating her flesh, cracking her ribs, travelling through her lung and lodging itself in a spot that suddenly burnt like Hell itself. She crashed to the ground, on her back. The last thing she saw was a ball of blue light leaving Aria's hands, enveloping the sniper and crushing him on himself, blood and bone splatters exploding all around. Then there was just blackness.
"Anto, Garka, for fuck sake, what's taking so long? Kill these insects and get it done with!" Aria's voice was strong and could easily be heard above the noise of the weapons firing away. Her head turned in the direction of Shepard as she saw the human getting to her feet and running towards her, impossibly fast. She steeled herself for the impact, still not fully understanding what she was up to. If this was her plan to turn against her, she'd have to pay a very dear price later on, when the fight would be over. As she was sent flying through the air she heard a shot coming from behind her and suddenly realized what was happening. She watched in horror as the bullet hit the soldier squarely in her chest and her body was thrown like a ragdoll. As soon as she hit the ground, Aria turned around and in the blink of an eye took care of the sniper. Then she found herself running breathlessly to where Shepard was lying, unconscious and slowly bleeding.
She assessed the situation in just a second. She threw up a stasis field around Shepard and made her float effortlessly in front of her, she got to her feet and used her biotics to push her body back into the tunnel whence they had come, leaving her small task force to take care of the few remaining smugglers. She brought her comm to her ear and spoke into it. "I have a wounded human with me. She needs medical attention. Gunshot. It's critical. I am taking her to your clinic now. Be ready."
The small clinic was half empty, the lights dim during the night shift. An old Salarian was getting a few instruments ready as Aria entered, the blue stasis bubble containing Shepard's body travelling in front of her. She gently lowered her on the slab and let the field fade. The Salarian looked the human over, quickly assessing the seriousness of her wound, his medical omni tool coming online and hovering over her torso and head. "Not good. Lost a lot of blood. Bullet embedded in bad place. Very close to the heart. Will take some time. Will take some effort."
"I don't care how long it takes. And you better put all of your effort in it, Mordin. Save her. If she dies, you die. That simple." Aria's voice was positively threatening.
The doctor knew better than to retort with any comment and he started working in earnest to patch the human. He called for an assistant. "Should wait outside. Will be a while."
Aria made way for the nurse that walked in pushing a small tray with various instruments, her eyes not leaving the unconscious Commander for a second. "No. I'll stay."
"Then out of the way, please. Can stand over there."
Her comm got her attention for a moment as she took the few steps to where the Salarian had pointed her. "Anto. Report."
The voice of the huge Batarian came through loud and clear. "All dead. Making our way back now."
"Good. I'll see you later. Keep an eye on things." She closed the connection and just stood, waiting.
It felt like forever as she was watching the doctor work, she found it strange that he was not uttering a single word, he usually had to be physically threatened to keep silent. She thought that it wasn't a good sign. Even without much medical knowledge she could see that it was a nasty wound. She took a mental step back from the scene and let her mind roam. This human had taken a bullet for her, a bullet that almost certainly would have killed her. She had been completely unaware of the sniper in that corner, too distracted by the frontal attack of the smugglers, busy wiping them out warp by warp, singularity by singularity. Stupid. She just had a hard time figuring out why the Hell Shepard would do something like that. With her cunning mind and strong character she could have just watched her die and then taken her place as the ruler of Omega. áBut no. She had run. To save her life. She recalled entering the human's mind while she was sleeping, and how the Commander had recognized her and enveloped her in such sincere love. Was it true then? Could it be that this human really loved her? And how did she feel about the soldier? In her consciousness she had returned the embrace, the caresses, the dance of feelings, but with her rational mind, would it be wise to allow herself to feel this? She had always been adamant that romance had no place in her life whatsoever, considering it not just a simple waste of time but also a potential danger, a very real danger. She had been in love, centuries prior, and it had led to nothing but heartache and humiliation and the subsequent decision to swear off any kind of romantic involvement. She hated to admit that this human had somehow breached through that and settled in a small, warm corner of her heart. What was she to do now? She looked at her body on the operating table, blood on the slab and on Mordin's hands, so much blood, so red. She felt her heart being squeezed by an invisible hand. Her eyes travelled to Shepard's face, perfectly expressionless in her unconscious state, her dark curls shining under the operating light. Aria couldn't believe she was entwining her fingers in them just a few hours earlier. The human's features were impossibly pale and the Asari found herself actually really worried for her, now painfully uncertain about her survival. She lowered her gaze and closed her eyes for a second. When she opened them, they were black swirling pools.
The blackness was everywhere. Shepard was trying desperately to find her bearings with no success to speak of. It felt like she was floating in nothingness, a very dark, very blind nothingness. The part of her that was her core was determined not to let herself be swallowed by these black walls, this black blanket that as time went by felt heavier and heavier. She was fighting with whatever energy she had left, trying to break free of this hold, but much like quicksand, the more she fought the less she could move. It was only because of her never ending years of training and discipline that she did not panic. Her stubbornness also helped. But as she struggled for her life it was making less and less of a difference. She decided to rest, just for a moment, just for a second, to regain some strength, to regroup, to
As her thoughts were becoming more erratic and feeble, she felt something. In her mind, she saw a small light, an opening, a way out. She forced herself to reach for it with all that she had left. As she was about to touch it, she felt a presence, like a strong warm hand, grasping her, lifting her up, closing around her in such a protective effort, it made her want to just abandon herself into it. And she did. Now devoid of all energy, she let herself be cocooned by this other consciousness. Then in a sudden, unexpected spurt of clarity she recognized her.
That was all she could muster. One name.
The Queen of Omega was lost. Everything was dark in Shepard's mind, cold, scary, even for her, even with the centuries of experience she had had. The nothingness was almost palpable, invading every corner of the human's consciousness slowly but surely. She gathered all of her energy and she let it out, concentrating it in one small task. Light. There needed to be light. As soon as she was able to produce it, she immediately felt the Commander's mind reaching out, so weak, so far, but at least she was still there. Aria extended herself as far as she could, managing to get a hold of the human's consciousness, holding her tight, enveloping her and nourishing her with all that she could spare, giving liberally of her own energy. It was exhausting, she was being drained of her own life essence in the process, but she had no intention of letting Shepard go. In the real world she felt her legs giving in and she allowed herself to slip down to the floor, her back to the wall. She hated that anyone could see her like this, but at the same time she did not care. She made a choice. Shepard was her priority right now. She would deal with all else later. As she was feeding the Commander with the strength necessary to keep her alive, she heard her.
One name. Her name. Shepard knew.
Out of the corner of her eye the Asari saw a Salarian hand in front of her face, offered to her. She grabbed it and managed to get to her feet. Mordin was looking at her, his face unreadable. She was slightly swaying, the meld having taken so much from her. She couldn't find her voice to ask, so she just stood there, waiting.
"Human soldier is strong. She will live. And so will I, then." A weird sort of smile played on his face for a couple of seconds. He turned to walk away, stopped, tilted his head to look at Aria and light heartedly added. "Thanks for the help. Don't think she would have made it without you."
Aria thought she would just fall and collapse then, but she'd be damned before letting any living soul see her in a display of weakness of any kind. She managed to put a foot in front of the other all the way to the operating table. The assistant gathered up all the instruments and quickly exited the room, leaving the Asari alone. As the door hissed close the Queen looked around, her eyes looking for a stool or a chair. She found one and dragged it close to the slab, grateful to be able to finally sit down. She reached out with her hand and caressed Shepard's face, slowly running her fingertip along her jaw, the same way she had done earlier, when she had woken up next to her in the bed. A small miracle happened. She saw Shepard's mouth open and automatically lowered her head towards her face to hear what she seemed to be about to say. It was but a whisper, barely audible. "Mh. Yeah. Love you too."
That's when Aria felt the fatigue finally hitting her. She put her head on the human's lap, carefully avoiding the bandages that were covering half her torso, she closed her eyes and allowed herself to drift into sleep, the deep exhaustion taking its toll.
Shepard's eyes slowly opened to completely unknown surroundings. It took her a moment to recall the last things she remembered, the burning pain in her chest helping her bring back the memories of her last conscious instants. She blinked a few times, her sight adapting quickly to the low warm lights in the room. There was a definite smell of surgical disinfectant in the air, pungent to her nose. Her torso was tightly wrapped in clean bandages, with just a small blood stain on her left side where the bullet had hit her. She felt a weight on her abdomen that she didn't understand, until her gaze travelled down her body and she saw the sleeping face of Aria, a stern expression on her features even as she was unconscious. The Commander took a minute to look at her, admiring her flawless beauty, her face markings, the smooth texture of her skin. She smiled and her hand came instinctively up to caress the Asari's crest.
The Queen woke up suddenly at the touch, her eyes wide open and immediately alert, searching the room in a quick movement before realizing who had awoken her. She grasped Shepard's hand with hers and brought it to her lips, kissing softly the palm of the human as she was trying to talk to her in a raspy, unsteady voice.
"I told you I should have worn my own armor." A small grin opened on the Commander's face, mirrored by one on Aria's as she replied.
"That was the most stupid thing I have ever seen. Don't you dare do something like that again."
A sharp pain made the human grimace and she motioned to clutch at her chest. Aria's hand was quicker as she placed it on the covered wound, wanting nothing more than to take the pain away.
"Relax, Shepard. Let go of the pain. Listen to my voice. Close your eyes. Embrace eternity."
In a swift blink the Asari's eyes became as black as dark space and she entered the Commander's mind. It was still quite dark, with sparks coming into sight randomly, the stabbing pain that she was suffering right now was almost tangible. Aria concentrated on it and tried to separate it from the part of Shepard's consciousness that was trying hard to heal itself. The effort to sustain another meld after only a few hours had passed since she had given all of her energy to help the human stay alive was taxing on her in ways she hadn't experienced before, but it was the least she could do. In fact it was the only thing she wanted to do. The thought that Shepard was feeling such pain only because she had chosen to save her life, sacrificing herself in the process, was almost physically hurting the Queen. She needed to do something, anything, everything in her power to alleviate the soldier's suffering. She shielded her consciousness from the pain as much as she could and felt a warm wave of gratefulness all around her.
As Shepard realized just how fatigued Aria's mind was, she made a tremendous effort to use whatever strength she had to help the Asari, to support her. They started feeding off each other, twisting around each other like slow water currents, the feeling of being one so welcomed by both.
They kept it up as long as they both could, then Aria let the meld softly fade, leaving behind tendrils of warmth in her wake. Shepard felt that the pain was now more bearable and was infinitely thankful for that gift. She tried talking again.
"You shouldn't run yourself into the ground just because I feel like a varren has used me like a chew toy and spat me out. I'm sure whoever patched me back together has some pain killers for me."
Aria took Shepard's hand and squeezed it, then she entwined their fingers, in silence. She fixed her eyes on the Commander's and they just stared at each other for a while. The Asari did not know what to say, or better, she did not know what she wanted to say of all the things she was thinking right now. She still didn't want to open up to the young human, the strong habit of several centuries solidly standing in the way and not wanting to budge. But in sight of what the soldier had done she felt it was only fair to throw her a bone. Sort of.
"You had me worried there for a moment, Commander. And I don't like to be worried."
"I'll do my best to save your life in a more orderly, less messy fashion next time, my Queen."
"You are lucky to be alive for a 'next time'."
"Luck has nothing to do with it. I saw you. I felt you, in the blackness. Thank you."
Aria looked deeply into the human's eyes. "Don't mention it. Literally."
Shepard managed a small smile of amusement, she felt Aria squeezing her hand, softly. Then the pain came back with a vengeance, she was grinding her teeth for a second and she lost consciousness.
Mordin was taking care of a few things at a terminal when he heard the voices coming from the operating room. He decided to walk in and check on his human patient, surprised that she had regained consciousness so soon. As he entered the room he stopped in his steps as he saw Aria squeezing the soldier's hand in a very uncharacteristically sweet way. Then he saw the human fainting and ran to the bed.
"Too much effort, too soon, should still be under!"
He brought up his omni tool and scanned the Commander, shaking his head all the time. As the device went off line he looked directly at Aria. "Thankfully, no big damage was done. Should let her rest now. You need rest too. Come."
"I am not moving." Aria's voice did not allow a reply.
The Salarian let out a big sigh. "Very well. Will have assistant bring you food." He looked at the stool where the Asari was sitting. "And a more comfortable chair." He quickly exited the room.