Mass Effect Slipstream Book I: The Streamer's Edge

On the Mend

Finn awoke with an intense feeling of vertigo. As awareness slowly returned, he realized he was sitting in a hospital bed.

He tried to sit up, and immediately regretted it. His entire body felt like it had been worked over by a krogan battlemaster. On the plus side, he realized glumly, the swelling in his eye had gone down enough for him to see out of it again.

A panel on the wall abruptly changed into an image of an asari in a doctor's outfit.

"Good afternoon, Mister Cresste." She said pleasantly. "Can you tell me how you're feeling today?"

"I'd tell you, but mother told me not to use naughty words."

The asari's smile twitched slightly, as though she wanted to laugh but was far too professional to actually do so. "You had a nasty concussion, Mister Cresste. What is the last thing you remember?"

"We were running out of Glendale Apartments." A sense of alarm suddenly rushed through him.

Sitting up despite the pain it caused him, Finn asked, "Xyn! Is she okay?"

"Please, Mister Cresste, lay back down."

The firmness in her voice made it clear she wasn't going to say anything until he did as she said. With a sigh, he lay back in the bed.

Nodding approvingly, the asari continued, "You had some minor burns as well, but nothing that shouldn't heal with the proper treatments. As for your scaal friend, she’s been recovering well. She’s been withdrawn since regaining consciousness, though it’s probably due to detoxing; she did have a high concentration of nectar in her system when she was brought in.”

“Nectar.” Finn repeated, remembering her orange eyes. The thought that he had driven her to abusing Nectar made him sick to his stomach.

The asari doctor gave him a reassuring smile. "You look like you could use some cheering up."

The screen went blank. Finn stared at it for a few minutes of silence before the door to his room opened seemingly of its own volition.

Jake bounded into the room and hopped up onto the bed, his tail end wagging happily. "Finn! You're alive! Ha!"

"Hey, Jake." Finn said, rubbing the top KEI-9 unit's head. "It's good to see a friendly face."

"Hey, I had to come check on my kid brother, right? Still can't believe what happened with Xyn, man."

"I know." Finn said, shaking his head. "I can't get it out of my mind."

"Cheer up, buddy. I mean, she’s alive, and you’re alive. It’s a shame about the apartments, but apparently they hadn’t even opened for business yet. Get this; the fire suppression systems were due to be installed today. There’s timing for you, eh?”

“Godot got our transponder fixed, and he didn't find any bugs onboard, squishy or otherwise. It finally looks like we might be in the clear!"

"Good." Finn replied. "I want to get off this rock as soon as I'm back on my feet."

"Sure, man. Sure thing. We're all just waiting on you."

Something in Jake's tone made Finn suspicious. "Just how long was I out, anyway?"

"Three days. Apparently there was a bit of internal trauma. No worries, though; I mean, you’re awake now, so you must be good.”

Finn sighed. "Good enough to get out of here, I hope."

"Yeah. Hey, I'll go grab the others. You wait right here."

"Sure thing." Finn said, waving as Jake ran out of the room.

Finn stared up at the ceiling for a few moments before closing his eyes. He must've drifted off, because it seemed like merely seconds later that Jake came running into the room again, the rest of the Ulasomorf's crew behind him.

"Pleased; you are looking well, Finn." Darsan said.

Eri laughed. "Well, you look about as goofy as you usually do. Still, you look better without the black eye."

"Thanks." Finn told him, grateful for the distraction his friends provided. "Sorry if I worried anyone.”

"That's okay. If I've learned anything, it's that you're a reckless bastard. Er, sir." Mannon told him, claiming the chair moments before Eri.

Finn chuckled. "True enough."

As he looked around the room, he noticed there was one face that was absent. He started to ask where she was, but ultimately remained silent. After what happened with Xyn, she probably took a ship back to Omega.

Shaking his head, Finn asked, "So, what have you lot been up to for the past few days?"

"Oh, not much." Eri said, leaning against the wall. "Taking it easy, mostly. I tried to ask around about the people chasing us, but seeing as they've left nothing for us to go on, I can't say I've had any success."

"Any interesting rumors?" Finn asked curiously.

Mannon answered, "Well, the yahg are petitioning for an embassy in the Citadel."

"Remind me not to go to the Citadel." Finn said with a chuckle. "How about you, Darsan? Any luck?"

"Reservedly; not in terms of information, but I did manage to find a friendly asari."

"What." Eri said flatly.

"Cheerily; we spent some quality time together, at such a good rate, too."

"You hired a hooker?" Mannon asked, her nervous nature completely brushed aside by shock and disgust.

"Feigning indignation; I'm no hooker. We both had needs, and she left me a little 'gift' in exchange for some tender loving care."

"Wait, wait, wait." Eri said, "You mean she paid you?"

"Smugly; Yep."

After a momentary pause, Eri added, "For sex?"

"Smugly; Yep."

The room was quiet for a moment while everyone in the room considered this, with the exception of Darsan. It's amazing how smug an elcor can manage to look, despite lacking any of the normal facial features usually required.

It was practically a godsend when Kyra came stumbling into the room.

"Whew!" She said cheerily, leaning on her knees for a moment as she caught her breath. "Sorry I'm late."

She gave Finn a hug and said, “I'm glad to see you're okay."

Her eyes met his for a moment. There was something in her gaze that hadn't been there before; a strange sadness that in some ways made Finn feel even worse until her face broke into a wide smile.

"Feeling better?" She asked, sitting on the side of his bed.

"I am now." The words slipped out, or maybe he just didn't care anymore. Either way, he blushed.

She rubbed his cheek. "Good."

Eri cleared his throat, possibly to remind the two of them that they weren't the only people in the room. "So, Captain; what's next on the list?"

"I told you -"

"-not to call you Captain on your ship, and I have respectfully refrained from doing so. However, as you may have noticed, we aren't on the Ulasomorf, so I can call you whatever I want, Captain."

Finn gave up. "Fine. I warn you, though; I'll remember this. As for what's next-"

"We can talk about that after he's discharged." Kyra said briskly, pushing a surprised Eri out of the room. She turned her sights on Mannon who quickly left the room, Darsan still looking smug as he followed behind her.

"Jake." Kyra said firmly, putting her hands on her hips.

"Huh? Oh, right. See you later, Finn."

As they left the room, Kyra shut the door behind them.

"Thanks." Finn told her as she sat back down on the side of his bed. "To be honest, I haven't thought much about where to go next."

"We can talk about that later." She said kindly.

Looking into her accepting eyes was too much for Finn. "I screwed up, Kyra." He admitted. "I screwed up big. I wanted to help her, and all I did was cause her more pain."

"Shh." She whispered, holding a finger to her lips.

"No." Finn said, surprising them both with his firmness. "I need to tell you. I need you to know. I didn't know Xyn until the fire; when I first saw her, her bond-mate was already dead. She told me she was dead … that she wanted to die, but …"

"But you had to save her." Kyra finished, the same sadness as before in her eyes.

Nodding, Finn continued, "For weeks, she just sat in her room doing nothing. Just sitting there like a lifeless doll. Jake told me not to get involved … hell, even the other scaal told me to just let nature take its course. I couldn't do that."

Taking a shaking breath, he said, "My father died the year after I joined the Acadamy. I grieved his loss, but my mother was completely devastated; she just sat in her room and slowly withered away. I tried to help her, but it was like she was on another plane of existence. When she died, it was like she just … just stopped. And seeing Xyn going through the same thing, it brought all those memories back."

Kyra didn't attempt to stop him anymore; she listened intently, her hand holding his own tightly.

"Seeing her there, fading away like mom … I couldn't just stand by anymore. When she finally started to open up to me, I felt like I had redeemed my failure with my mother; that maybe, wherever my mother's spirit was, she could finally be at peace. We hung out a lot after that; it's hard to go through something like that without becoming friends. When she confessed her feelings to me, I was overwhelmed."

"Did you love her?" Kyra asked quietly.

Finn stared at her a long time before finally nodding. "Yeah. I did. She's beautiful, and she sees the world in ways I can't even imagine. Sometimes, I'd wake up, and she'd have crawled into bed beside me. Sometimes we just sat out in the woods and stared at the stars for hours."

He let out a sigh. "But as we grew closer, I started to wonder: did she really like me, or was she attached to me because she had no one else? The other scaal acted as though she wasn't even there, and Jake and I were the only other people who ever visited her. I started worrying that she was still in pain from the death of her bondmate, and was desperate to fill the emptiness with something. When she started suggesting we be bonded, it seemed to confirm my deepest fears … or maybe I was just terrified of that kind of complete commitment.”

"So you left." She said sadly.

"I convinced myself that if I was gone, she might be able to get on with her life, maybe find someone she could truly love. It's not unheard of for half of a pair bond to die, and even when she was with me, she turned more than a few heads. I thought she'd find someone new in no time, and eventually forget about me." Finn let out a hollow laugh. "And look how it turned out. God, I'm an idiot."

They sat in silence for a long moment.

“Are you going to be okay?” She asked in a quiet voice.

“I-I don’t know.” Finn admitted.

To his surprise, she leaned forward and kissed him. There was a sweetness to her breath that reminded him of fresh blackberries, and the softness of her lips against his made his brain go numb.

"How about now?" She asked, a shy smile on her face.

Finn didn't know what to say. A few synapses that hadn't fried themselves yet managed to fire off enough impulses for him to manage a nod.

"Finn, I know we haven't known each other that long." She said, "But I've come to know you, Finn, at least a little. You've got a kind heart, and … I like you."

Finn stared at her for a few moments before managing to say, “I like you too.”

She beamed at him and gave him a hug. “And now according to quarian tradition, we’re married!”

“What?” Finn said, eyes wide.

She let out a giggle and hugged him again. “I’m just messin’ with you. I did get you something though, as a thank you for rescuing me from a boring life on Omega.”

A pendant fell from her open hand, suspended by its black leather cord. It was a bronze heart with a small crack in it, the crack partially covered by two small bandages.

“You like?” She asked tentatively.

“Yeah.” He told her, slipping it around his neck. “I like.”

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