Water had never been Kolyat’s favorite thing.
He needed it to stay alive, like most other organisms, and he’d gotten used to using that instead of sand to clean himself. But beyond those two applications, he could do without it in his life. Perhaps his loathing came from living on a planet so saturated with the stuff that the very air he’d breathed was poison to him. On Kahje, water swallowed both the living and the dead, but in small doses, he was willing to admit it had its uses.
After a long day of hospital visits, errands and time at the temple fending off the unsolicited advice of the priests, Kolyat was so tense when he got home that his shoulders were hiked up to his frill. An’ur had drawn him a bath and all but thrown Kolyat in it. “Just try it,” he insisted. “It’ll help with your stress.” He locked Kolyat in the bathroom and swore to let him out after an hour. He and the liquid sloshing around the tub had had a stalemate for a while, Kolyat not willing to get in and the water reusing to leave, but the bath won out in the end. The warmth of the water was too much to resist and the bathroom was always cold no matter how warm the rest of the apartment was. He gave in and tried it and was glad he had.
Stressed didn’t begin to cover the feeling of so many things pressing down on him at once. The temple; the news about the Reapers which was just enough to be terrifying but not enough to tell him how him should act; his father who he was just starting to know—who he just wanted to know, was dying and Kolyat was all he had. This was more than he ever would have signed up for and now he was stuck with it.
Thinking about how that human had disappeared from his father’s life made Kolyat so angry. Things between them had to have been serious for Thane to mention it at all. And then nothing. Haron and Thane both tried to defend the human by saying he couldn’t send or receive messages wherever he was but he called bullshit on that. If Shepard really cared for his father, he would have found a way. That was what every movie, every book, every song has told him. Was there no truth in it?
Kolyat knew Haron and Thane were right and that his anger was irrational. But he had to channel his anger somewhere. His temple visits hadn’t been able to completely erase all the sour parts of him. At least he wasn't turning it inward.
He sank down in the tub until the water was just under his nose, fragrant with whatever bath things An’ur has thrown in. He wondered how hard it would be to slip into the water and just let go, leaving all of his troubles behind. Although, admittedly, he would have come a very long way just to drown. He could have done that back on Kahje at any time. You’re being stupid, he chided himself. You don’t want that. Who would Haron and Thane have if you were gone? He had things to live for like a life with Haron. And who knew? Some eleventh hour miracle might come through for his father. They could all go on living
That is, if he overlooked that whole part about the galaxy ending.
He blew out a sigh and fat bubbles formed on the water’s surface. Not even being submerged in wondrous warm water could change the fact that everything sucked big time.
He was considering the wisdom of combining the effects of some booze with this bath when the apartment’s VI alerted him (and anyone else within the residence) that someone was at the door. An’ur could take care of it. It wouldn’t be for Kolyat seeing as he had no friends and no one here saw sporadically cared where he lived. Maybe An’ur had ordered them dinner… Kolyat would love him forever if he did (though he would even if he didn’t.)
An’ur knocked at the door, setting Kolyat’s stomach to growling. His body was already expecting to be fed. It would be a huge disappointment to get out of the tub and find nothing waiting for him.
“Kolyat?” An’ur called through the door. “There’s someone here to see you.” He fell silent, waiting for Kolyat’s response which never came. Someone here for him? That had to be wrong. “I think you’re going to want to speak to this person,” the Turian went on.
The only person Kolyat wanted to talk to was on the other side of the door. Whoever this mysterious visitor was, Kolyat was certain he wouldn’t appreciate his visit. He got up anyway.
“I’ll be right out.” His bath was already starting to cool and he no longer had the patience to maintain the temperature. Getting out was the lesser of two evils right now, but not by much. He unstoppered the tub, feeling pretty annoyed by the whole affair.
He didn’t bother getting dressed. He wanted to get this whole thing over with quickly. He wrapped up in An’ur’s robe, cinching it as tight as he could with the skinny belt, leaving his chest and belly just barely covered. Turian proportions were still so strange to him. This was about the only thing of his that Kolyat would wear and that was just barely.
He kept the grumbling to a minimum as he shuffled out to the front of the apartment. He wasn’t always successful, but he was trying to better his attitude. Being snippy all the time didn’t make him happy. Rather, it was a holdover of his past unhappiness. Why keep it up?
Nuggets of wisdom like that were why he’d gotten attached to the temple and its teachings. That was why it was so hard to decide what he should do regarding their request. They hadn’t steered him wrong before…were they really doing it now?
He made it to the living room, but the only person he saw was An’ur coming at him with outstretched arms and a dazed expression. “Why don’t you have any clothes on?” The sound he made was supposed to be a whisper, but it came out more like an anxious hiss. Was he angry about Kolyat’s lack of attire? Annoyed? Or was he a little jealous, not wanting anyone else to see Kolyat out of his clothes? Yeah… Kolyat liked that idea. He’d go with that.
“I was going to get dressed once I sent this visitor on their way.” Right now he was considering staying undressed. All his stress had robbed them of their intimacy. He was actually getting into the mood now. He wanted to roll with it. “Whoever this is, they’ve got the wrong person.”
“Really?” An unfamiliar voice sounded from behind An’ur. “There’s only a handful of drell registered as living on the Citadel and none of them go by Krios except one. You.” Kolyat looked around An’ur to the front door. Standing in the little alcove was a human. The collar of his dark jacket was turned up to hide his face and an equally dark hat was pulled down low over his eyes. Why had An’ur let someone so sketchy in here? That wasn't like him at all. But this situation begged a more urgent question.
Kolyat narrowed his eyes in the intruder's direction. “How do you know my name?”
Commander Shepard laughed as he took off his cap and worked to smooth his hair down. “I know we didn’t meet under the best circumstances, but I thought I’d left more of an impression than that.”
Realization dawned on Kolyat with a frown that was thrown to Shepard alike. “You.” He stepped back from Haron, sparing him a glance that said he was less than pleased with this whole situation. “I’m gonna go get dressed.” He disappeared down the hall.
In contrast to his lover’s sour mood about having the most famous human in Citadel space in their living room, Haron was geeking out.
He’d followed Shepard’s career from Torfan until things had all gone dark recently. He’d been repulsed and later intrigued by the idea of a person who could survive the way Shepard had and keep on going instead of crumbing in regret. He’d looked into the publicly accessible details of the spectre’s background and had become a bit of a fanboy. He’d admit it.
He had a news alert set up for the Commander’s name and he was pretty sure he’d perused every image there was on CPNN site at one point. Kolyat was his first foray into dating someone of the same sex, but looking back now, he’d probably had a crush on him. This was a little awkward for him, but he’d deal with it on his own. It wasn’t like he could tell Kolyat about how weird this was for him. Just like Kolyat hadn’t told him about knowing Shepard personally. They both had their secrets.
Shepard didn’t look so great, not that Haron was truly appraising him or anything. He had bags under his eyes, his brown skin darker in places like under his eyes and there were lines on his face that hadn't been there before. There hadn’t been much news of him other than what Haron knew to be slander, so there was no telling what he'd been going through these last few months. But even so, he still managed to emit a commanding presence that dominated the room. It was a little more than Haron could stand. “I’m just…I’m gonna see if he needs help. Go ahead and make yourself comfortable.” He was gonna help Kolyat dress? C’mon, An’ur. How uncool can you get?
“Thanks,” Shepard said, already moving for Haron’s favorite chair. He sank down bodily into it. Haron heard him sigh wearily before he left the room.
He hurried down the hall and knocked on the closed bedroom door. “Everything OK in there?” He was sort of eager to have Shepard gone from here as well now. This was just too strange.
“If having the biggest jerk in the galaxy in my safe space can be called OK, then, yeah! Everything’s fucking great!” Kolyat laughed, harsh and mirthless.
“You, uh, you never mentioned that you knew Shepard, too.” Both Thane and Kolyat had said Shepard when they spoke of his father’s missing lover, but what were the chances that it was this Shepard?
Kolyat snorted, the sound muffled by the door. “I don’t think getting punched in the face by him and knowing him are the same thing. If that’s the case, then I know a lot of assholes then.”
“He punched you?” A little flare of protectiveness flared in Haron’s chest. It had been before they’d even known each other existed, but he felt indignant on Kolyat’s behalf. That fit in with his view of Shepard, but he had a hard time figure out what Kolyat could have done to deserve that.
Kolyat opened the door and stood there, fully dressed in shorts and a loose shirt and a pair of shorts that he usually wore when he didn’t plan on leaving the house. He sighed. “He sighed. It’s a long story… Part of what brought me to C-Sec in the first place.”
“You’ll have to tell me all about it sometime.” Though not now. He smoothed a touch down Kolyat’s arm, trying for comfort. This situation just got weirder and weirder. He hoped they could get this over with soon enough.
They didn’t have any human food in the house, but levo diets couldn’t be all that different, right? Haron served up some of the pomelo juice Kolyat picked up the other day which earned him the darkest scowl he’d ever seen. He had water for himself. Kolyat may not want Shepard here because of their shared past, but they could be civil for 10 minutes. Haron would get him new juice.
Kolyat slid over his side as he sat on the couch, not allowing any space between them. He put a hand on Haron’s knee in a rare territorial display. At least Kolyat wasn’t hiding behind him. Haron half expected him to hiss like a frightened cat.
Minutes passed where neither Kolyat nor Shepard spoke rendering the air thick with anticipation. Shepard had to be here for a reason and the sooner they found it out, the sooner they could get on with their lives. Haron opened his mouth to break the tension, but Kolyat beat him to it. “I think you’ve got the wrong Krios. You want the sick one who’s been waiting to hear from your ass for six months.”
Commander Shepard didn’t flinch, but Haron did. Hadn’t Thane explained to him about the various protocols that might have made replying impossible? Haron himself even repeated it when Kolyat chose to rant about the situation. If Haron could remember, Kolyat definitely did. He was just itching for a fight. “Kolyat…” Civil! He had to be civil!
Shepard made no move to defend himself as he stared at his half empty glass of juice on the table in front of him. Kolyat’s words seemed to have struck true. Haron hoped he was happy, yet when he looked at the drell, all he saw was anger.
“I came as soon as I could,” Shepard said. He leaned forward and knitted his hands together. “The only reason I wasn’t with him was because I absolutely couldn’t be. They locked me up and cut me off from the outside world.” Kolyat scoffed at his words, but otherwise said nothing. “I need to see him and I can’t get in touch with him. The address I have no longer works.”
Kolyat continued to say nothing, staring at the human as he got out of the chair. He knelt on the floor in front of his chair, his head bowed, hands on top of his thighs. “These last few months without him have been hell. I know what he’s going through and I should have been there. There isn’t a good enough reason to excuse my absence. I made a mistake.” He lifted his head and glared their way. For a second, Haron thought that look was meant for him. “Give me a chance to make it right.”
“How the hell are you going to make it right?” Kolyat spat. That was apparently the wrong thing to say. “Can you roll back time and get those six months back? Because unless you can your words don't mean shit. You said you were locked up and they just let you stroll out of there? Bullshit!”
“Spirits, Kolyat. When is it enough?” Haron’s dream of staying out of this, of his mate behaving like an adult evaporated before his eyes. He'd heard the reports himself about Earth but it hadn't sunk in. It was one of those things that sounded too ridiculous and awful to be true. But it was a reason Shepard could be here without a public announcement of his exoneration. There has never been one and likely never been an inquisition. They were on the precipice of some desperate times and they were looking at a desperate man. “What do you want him to do? He’s already begging. What more do you want?” Kolyat was upset. Haron got that, but now he was just being cruel, like a kid with a magnifying glass set loose on a bug colony.
Kolyat scrambled away, anger in his dark eyes. “Why are you taking his side?”
“I’m not taking a side. You’re just being a brat. This wasn’t about whatever happened between you two. Do you think this is what your father needs right now?” Haron knew he’d stepped in it as soon as he opened his mouth, he just underestimated how much. He’d secured himself a place on the couch tonight, but it was worth it.
Kolyat’s face darkened. “Don’t you use him against me.”
“I’m not using your father against you. You said yourself he likely wasn’t here for you. You were right.”
This was the part where Kolyat typically stormed out of the room. He was wrong and he knew it. He looked away, tears of frustration shining in his eyes. But he stayed.
“Fucking…fine!” he growled. “He’s at Huerta Memorial. Visiting hours are over for today.” Not to mention Thane’s hours were short and spaced out throughout the day rather than being the same as a normal patient’s. Shepard would find that out on his own soon enough.
Shepard got back in his chair, exhaustion present in every line of his face which seemed to multiple the longer he was here. “Thank you. And I’m sorry for hitting you when we first met.”
Kolyat crossed his arms over his chest. “Yeah, well.” He stopped there, his next words so obvious, they didn’t need to be said. I’m not doing this for you.
Shepard hung around a little longer, making polite conversation before he said his curt goodbyes and headed for the door. “One last thing,” he said, pulling his cap back on. “If there’s a way to help him, I’ll find it.”
“I'm not holding my breath.” Kolyat just had to get that last shot in. Haron let him have it, feeling too tired to do much else.
He shut the door behind their visitor and went to the couch where Kolyat was sprawled, taking up most of the space. Haron was able to sit on half a cushion, close but not too close. He had to gauge what sort of mood Kolyat might be in.
“That was a good thing you did,” he said, looking down at his lover. Kolyat ended Haron’s wondering by crawling over and resting his head in Haron’s lap. He sighed, closed his eyes.
“You’d better reward me properly, then.” Kolyat hummed, looking like he was ready to go to sleep himself.
Haron rested a hand on the side of his neck and his mate purred. “We can have whatever you want for dinner.”
Kolyat brought up his omnitool and started looking for menus. He finally seemed calm again, if drained. Haron felt himself finally start to relax as well. “I’m not going to tolerate any takebacks.”