Finn whistled cheerily as he hopped out of Billy. Things certainly seemed up, though he still felt a bit bummed about Mannon's departure. Fortunately, he knew just who to visit to cheer himself up.
"Kyra!" He called out as he left the lift and headed towards the engine room. "Kyra, are you h-"
Kyra smiled at him as the two engineers, one man and one woman looked up to see who was approaching. Finn recognized them both immediately.
The man was tall and quite strong in appearance, but his right arm was obviously cybernetic in nature. The woman was a little slip of a thing, and looked even smaller as she sat in her support chair, most likely to relieve the tension caused by her artificial legs.
"Whoa!" He said, quickly turning around, "I didn't realize you had company."
"That's all right, sweetie." She walked over to him and gave him a kiss on the cheek before pulling himself forward. "These are our Alliance friends, Ricardo and Katherine. Hey guys. This is Finn."
The silence that followed was almost unbearable palpable. Even Kyra picked up on it a few moments later.
"You know each other?" She asked, surprised.
"Yeah." Ricardo said, his voice strained. "We've met."
The air took an even more uncomfortable turn. Kyra must've picked up on that too.
"I'll uh … go grab us something to drink." Her eyes flashed worriedly to Finn for a moment before she hurried away.
For a long time after Kyra left, no one spoke. All three of them seemed to be waiting for something.
Just as Finn managed to gather enough nerve to speak, Katherine said, "My, my. Finn Cresste … look at you, all grown up."
Finn let out a nervous chuckle. "Yeah, well … I'm older anyway. How … how have you guys been doing?"
A very ugly look was slowly growing on Ricardo's face. Finn tried to ignore it, but he could literally feel the waves of hatred flowing from him.
Sighing, Finn said, "I'm … I'm really s-"
He never saw the punch coming. Ricardo's fist (the fleshy one, fortunately) slammed into his face hard enough to send him flying back into the nearest wall.
"Rico!" Katt said, alarmed.
"Sorry?" Rico shouted as Finn struggled to rise. "You're sorry, is that what you were going to say?"
He started to move towards Finn, but Katt caught his arm and somehow pulled him back.
"Calm down!" She ordered him. "Right now!"
"I …" Rico swallowed hard and stepped back.
Nodding, Katt turned her attention to Finn. There was actually concern in her eyes. "I'm sorry about that. Are you okay?"
A joke regarding his recent concussion on New Elysia came to mind, but Finn couldn't bring himself to say it. "You don't have to be sorry, Katt. He's right; I'm the one who screwed up."
A strange look came over both of their faces, like they couldn't believe what they just heard. Kat moved closer and knelt down beside him with little difficulty; apparently, she had gotten used to her leg replacements.
"Look at me." She told him.
Reluctantly, he met her gaze. When she was younger, she had her eyes were altered to literally look (and from what Finn understood, function) like those of a cat. She claimed it was to help her see better in low light, but Finn always suspected she did it just to match her nickname.
Her cat-like eyes were now searching his, peering through the windows of his soul and gently probing what lay beyond.
"You … you really mean that." She said, her eyes widening in wonder.
"Yes, I do." Finn told them. "The race was a stupid idea. All I cared about was stomping Old Greg, and …"
His eyes fell on Katt's legs before moving to Rico's arm. Shame filled him as he continued "… and I dragged the two of you into it. Worse, I was a complete jerk to the both of you after the accident."
"Yes, you were." Rico said, anger still in his voice, but now faded.
"I didn't want to admit I screwed up." Finn confessed. "It was easier to think that it was your fault, but … but it wasn't true. I was the squadron leader, and I let you down. Both of you."
To his surprise and astonishment, Katt started laughing.
Staring at her, feeling a bit hurt and a lot confused, he stammered, "W-what? What's so funny?"
"Finn Cresste, the master of the Stream, the flight prodigy who could fly anything like a pro in a matter of minutes, is apologizing and admitting his mistakes?" She shook her head, still laughing. "I always knew you'd show up again one day, but I never expected anything like this."
She held out her hand, smiling. After a moment of hesitation, Rico stepped beside her and offered his hand as well. Hesitant at first, Finn accepted their help and was quickly pulled to his feet.
"Don't think we didn't notice where the money for our fancy upgrades came from." Katt told him.
Finn's jaw dropped. "You … you knew?"
"Of course we knew. We don't have any family but each other, and charities that have that kind of dough tend to avoid donations to military personnel. The most the military was willing to do was to grow replacements for later implantation, but why settle for a replacement when you can get an improvement, huh?"
She hopped on her tiptoes for a few moments, her balance perfect. "Still, these were pretty expensive. Who'd you kidnap to pay for it?"
"It's a long story." Finn said truthfully. "Let's just say my life's been … interesting since I left Earth."
"Yeah, your girlfriend was telling us about that." Rico said, sounding much like his old self. "How'd you dupe her into a relationship anyway?"
"Rico." Katt said warningly.
The big man blushed. Something about the look that passed between them made something click in Finn's head. He glanced at their hands and finally noticed the rings.
"You two got married?"
Rico looked really uncomfortable now. Katt hugged his arm. "Yeah, well … like I said, we're the only family we've ever had."
"Congratulations!" He said, shaking their hands. "I wish I could've been there for the ceremony, but I can understand why you didn't invite me."
"Oh, it wasn't a ceremony. You know how shy Rico gets in a crowd." She interlaced her fingers with Rico's augmented hand, continuing, "Besides, we knew you couldn't come even if you wanted to."
"Speaking of which," Rico said, "You really shouldn't be here."
"I know." Finn said, his cheeks flushed. "It's not bad enough I wrecked three Teraels and a satellite, but I basically deserted too. I can't imagine the Alliance would be as welcoming if they knew I was the captain of this ship. Believe me, I probably still wouldn't be here if it weren't such an emergency."
"Yeah, about that." Katt walked over to the cloaking generator. "Why did you risk coming back? Not that I don't appreciate the opportunity to check out this impressive piece of tech, but if they catch you here, you'll probably end up in a cell for decades."
"It's …" Finn debated for a moment whether or not to tell them the truth. Letting out a sigh, he said, "It's better than Cerberus catching us and just straight up killing us."
"Cerberus?" Rico said, alarmed. "Weren't they destroyed years ago?"
"Oh, it gets better." Finn told them. "The Illusive Man's alive too, and in control of a Reaper."
They stared at him in silence.
"Yeah, that's pretty much what we said. Well, that, and me panicking a bit." Finn admitted.
"That's heavy." Rico said, rubbing the back of his head.
Katt asked, "Any idea what they're up to?"
"Not a clue, but seeing as it's Cerberus, it can't be good. I've got proof; I just need to figure out where to send it without outing myself."
"Which is why I'm going to take it straight to Admiral Alenko." Kyra said, approaching with several hard lemonades in tow. She tossed one to each of them before twisting off the cap on hers. "They'll listen to me."
"They will?' Rico asked, raising an eyebrow at the quarian.
"Oh, I'm sure they will." Finn said as Kyra leaned back against his shoulder. "She's special. Aren't you, milady?"
"Don't I know it." She replied with a smile, rubbing his cheek.
Turning her attention back to the cloaking device, Kyra asked, "So, any luck with it?"
Katt checked her omni-tool. "Well, I've got a complete scan of it. There are a few things constructs I can't quite figure out. Any chance you'll let us take it apart?"
"Only if you put it back together when you're done." Kyra told her.
Rico nodded. "Fair enough."
Kyra grabbed Finn's hand and started to pull him towards the lift. "C'mon, Finn. Let's go see about delivering our little message."
"Sure thing." Finn waved at Katt and Rico as he let Kyra tug him out of the engine room.
Once they were in the lift and the doors had closed, Kyra wrapped her arms around Finn and gave him a big kiss.
"Not that I'm complaining," Finn said, his arms around her, "But what was that for?'
"It's 'cause I'm sorry."
"Oh." Finn said, feeling embarrassed. "You saw that, did you?"
"Yeah. If I'd known-"
"It's okay." He said, rubbing her cheek. "The odds of them being here is pretty out there."
"What happened, anyway?" She asked tentatively.
Finn sighed. "A stupid mistake. We were racing against another group of students. We were all Streamers, but I had an idea; by flying in a close formation, we could combine our mass effect fields to stream as a group. Without combined energy, we hoped to go even faster than normal streaming."
He let out an embarrassed chuckle. "It was stupid; it's hard enough to do it with one ship, let alone doing it with three in conjunction. We're just lucky we ended up crashing instead of streaming straight into the damn sun, though I'm still stunned that we all managed to survive."
"That's when you left Earth?"
"Pretty much. They were most likely going to court martial me, or whatever it is they do to students who steal ships and nearly get their friends killed, so I managed to stowaway on a shuttle heading for New Elysia with Jake. Rico and Katt tried to stop me; told me that it wasn't as bad as I was making it out to be, and I ended up screaming at them about how it was their fault for not being as 'good' as me."
He shook his head, saying, "I was such an idiot. A cocky little brat who thought the galaxy owed him something. The accident was a harsh lesson. It wasn't until I was on New Elysia that I realized what a jerk I had been."
"Hey." She said, making him look at her. "Stop calling yourself a jerk. You aren't that person anymore. It's time to let it go."
He stared at her for a long time before nodded gratefully. "You're right. Thanks, Kyra."
"You can thank me by cooking us up some lunch after I have a talk with Admiral Alenko." She whispered before giving him another kiss.
The lift doors opened on the cargo deck. After giving him a quick hug, she hopped out of the lift and headed for the bridge, calling back, "Don't start eating without me!"
As Finn rode up to the kitchen, he couldn't help but wonder how things would've turned out had he stayed. He would've gotten into trouble, sure, but chances are it wouldn't have been the end of his career with the Alliance. Of course, now they were likely to throw the book at him for desertion. Finn wondered if it was still a capital offense.
"Ugh." He muttered as the lift doors opened. "Way to stay positive, Finn."
He was halfway to the kitchen when he heard the lift slide open behind him. He turned to see Rico rubbing the back of his head and looking uncomfortable.
"Hey." Finn said uncertainly "Everything okay down there?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah. Katt's figuring it out." After a brief pause, he said, "Listen, man; I just wanted to say I'm sorry."
Finn blushed, saying, "You don't have to-"
"Yeah, I do. After you left, I was so angry; even when Katt figured out you paid for our augments. You shoulda seen the fight Katt and I had when she wanted to hunt you down to be a witness at our wedding. I thought you'd never change."
He paused again. "But you did. I never thought I'd ever hear Finn Cresste admit he was wrong, not sincerely."
"I made plenty more mistakes after I left." Finn let out a chuckle. "I'd like to think I learned a few things since then. These last few weeks have been like living my life backwards and revisiting my biggest mistakes. I'd be lying if I said that the accident wasn't one of them."
"Thing is," Rico told him, blushing, "You were right. I screwed up; I pushed too close to the envelope and ended up collapsing it around us."
Finn let out a sigh. "You wouldn't have even been out there if I hadn't pushed you."
"Still, I was a weak link." There was admiration in his voice as he continued, "Flying always came so naturally to you, Slipstream. We'd have to work and work just to be half the pilot you were. I admit, I was a bit jealous."
"Jealous?" Finn asked, surprised. "Because I could fly better? It was the only thing I really excelled in back then. You're stronger and a much better shot than I've ever been. I can fix things reasonably well, but I can't hold a candle to Katt or Kyra."
"I know, but … it's just, for years, I've thought about what I'd do if you showed up again, and when you did, all that anger came rushing back." He flushed, saying, "And I'm sorry I hit you."
Finn let out a relieved sigh. Patting Rico on the shoulder, he said, "Eh, I probably had it coming for something."
Rico smiled, but he still looked troubled. "I wish I could be so forgiving to someone who just slugged me one."
"I don't have enough friends to just start pushing them away." Finn told him. "Besides, I've been getting that a lot lately."