Khosin and Serena; Day two of shore leave.
A collab by your's truly and @Rtron
Serena walked up to where Khosin had made his temporary quarters, knocking on the door. It hadn’t been easy to find the batarian, Khosin both liking his privacy and being very quick whenever he left his hidey-hole. But now she had him cornered, and she wasn’t about to let him wiggle out of getting out of this hole, or at the very least doing something other than drinking. She banged on the door, calling out as she did so. ”Khosin, I know you’re in there. Open up, I wanna talk!”
”I’m gonna give you two minutes, then I’m hacking the door open!”
Khosin was dimly aware of the sound of knocking on his door, groaning as he shifted on the bed “Who the fuck is bothering me now.” His sleep-addled mind wondered, thankfully the second statement made by his mysterious visitor made it clear who she was: Serena. “Shit. Fuck.” He immediately thought as he noticed the bottle-littered floor of his apartment.
It wasn’t like he had drunk them all just now, but he doubted that particular distinction would ease any of Serena’s concerns. “I’m going, I’m going, there’s no need to hack my door.” Khosin said, voice hoarse from drinking up until a few hours ago. The Batarian stumbled his way to the door, discarded empty bottles falling into the ground and making a clink sound that’d be audible if Serena was paying attention. “Well, here I am, something’s the matter Serena?” Khosin asked once he finally managed to open the door.
He was still wearing his usual set of clothings, which were mercifully unstained by vomit or alcohol stains, but he wasn’t wearing his prosthesis, which rested on the table near his bed. If the hoarse voice didn’t give it away, the stench of alcohol that emanated from Khosin and his blood-shot eyes. Albeit one would only known that if they had lived with a Batarian for a long period of time, made it abundantly clear that the Batarian soldier had been drinking, not to mention drunk, up until a few hours ago.
Serena frowned as she heard bottles being tossed to the ground and Khosin stumbling around. He likely had been drinking nonstop since they got on shore leave, which was why she was here in the first place. Her nose wrinkled reflexively as the strong smell of alcohol wafted through the door and hit her full force. He had been drinking a lot since they got on the Nexus. Briefly, she wondered how he had gotten so much alcohol to his room before deciding it didn’t matter. It wasn’t why she was here anyway. She looked him up and down, frown giving way to weary concern. She couldn’t nag him to stop, that’d only result in him closing both himself off and the door in her face. ”I wanted to work on your arm and see how you were doing. Now that I have the answer to the latter, get dressed and take a cold shower. We’re gonna go somewhere quiet in the Nexus. I haven’t talked to you in several centuries,” She chuckled, pleased with her humor, “and I want to catch up with you. So come on.” She walked into his room idly kicking bottles out of her way as she made her way to his arm. “Lets go, chop chop. It’s better to work in places that are filled with stars and space.”
“Fine.” Khosin said with a sigh. He knew that there was no sense discussing with Serena when she got like this “But on one condition, whatever we talk about stays between the two of us. It doesn’t go Sabinius or Tazen, nor to any of the Riggers that made the trip to Andromeda, is that clear?” He asked her, crossing his arms as he did so, his four eyes looking directly at hers.
”You don’t have to worry about me.” Serena proclaimed, saluting him with his prosthetic arm. Depending on how the conversation went, she was definitely going to tell someone about it. But she hadn’t lied. Khosin didn’t need to worry about her at all. She was going to worry about him.
With her confirmation, he started making his way to his bathroom “There’s some dried food or some shit in here, feel free to eat. There’s also some water if you want to drink something.” He said before closing the door to his bathroom.
I’m surprised you know what water is anymore. Serena thought, staring at all the empty bottles of alcohol with another concerned frown.
It didn’t took him too long to get ready, 10 minutes at the most, and soon Khosin was presentable enough to go outside and take a walk through the Nexus. “I’d put the arm but, since you want to check it, I’ll forego doing that.” He said, chuckling a little bit “You haven’t forgotten I know a bit about engineering, right? I keep it in good condition, I promise.” He told Serena softly, making his way towards the door.
”Mhmm, I’m sure you think you do. I remember that those engineering skills were focused in engines, not robotics. Allow me to fuss over it. It’s what I do.” Serena said idly, scanning the arm and tucking it beneath her own arm. She looked Khosin up and down, pleased he had actually put effort into going out into the Nexus. She had half expected him to dunk his face in water and maybe spray something over his clothes.
“Come, if you insist dragging me out into the Nexus, lets get it over with quickly. Not sure if you’ve noticed or not, but I kind of get a lot of stares. Both from the Angara and our own, they are entirely different kind of stares but they are still annoying.” He said with nonchalance as he opened the door that led out of his temporary quarters, waiting for Serena to take the lead and get out.
Serena waved a nonchalant hand. ”If people stare too long, just cross all four of your eyes at them. Really freak them out. Then we can go about our business. Follow me!” She marched out of the room with a certain enthusiasm, heading towards one of the more secluded places of the Nexus. She kept up a small stream of chatter as she guided him to her chosen spot, occasionally glaring at people who got too rude when staring, talking about nothing in particular except whatever basic nicety passed her mind. She finally sat down against one of the large windows of the Nexus, patting the ground next to her for Khosin to sit at. It was away from any major hubs, and stared almost directly into the Scourge, so people tended to avoid it.
Khosin frowned slightly at Serena’s words but he followed her nonetheless, grateful for the chatter that she provided to keep him distracted from the stares that he got from some of the people walking around the station. He let out a sigh when they finally arrived at the spot that Serena seemed to have chosen, complying with her order and sitting next to her.
”Here’s perfect. It even solves your staring problem.” She sat with her legs crossed, Khosin’s prosthetic in her lap, omni-tools turning into a screwdriver as she began opening the arm up and looking it over.
”So, who gave you the shiner?” She gestured to the bruise along his jaw, relatively fresh, like it had happened only a day ago.
“I suppose that’s true, I hate getting stared at like a freak.” Muttered the Batarian with displeasure “You’d have thought that after so many months I’d have gotten used to it, but not really.” He said with a sigh, turning his head towards Serena to see her working on his arm. He was about to speak his mind to tell her that he’d already given the prosthesis regular maintenance the day they had gotten back to the Nexus but Serena’s question caused him to shut his mouth, his body tensing.
The question brought his mind back to the argument that he had had with Dex the other day, the punch from the Turian woman and the way that she had left but not after screeching at him in her fury. Now he felt bad about the whole argument, but also frustrated. “Why can’t she try and understand where I’m coming from.” He thought with a sigh, making a quick mental note to try and patch things up with Dex at a later date...for now they both needed some space.
“Dex.” He answered finally after a few more seconds of silent pondering whether to tell the truth to Serena or not “We were talking and, well, things got kinda heated.” Spoke Khosin, guilt palpable in his voice “Please, don’t pester her about this ok? For now I think we both need to mull over what happened and then patch things up, alright?”
Serena pursed her lips, as she cleaned an already spotless gear in Khosin’s arm. She didn’t like what Dex had done, only because it was largely useless due to Khosin’s mental state. ”Hmm. I’m gonna guess that it was over whatever event that happened in your past and whatever happened in the Hegemony, both of which you’ll only tell her, and this self-loathing bullshit spiral you’re on right now. Because Dex and I, if you recall, got into heated screaming matches a lot while on the Borealis and she never once struck me. So I’m gonna say that you deserved it. Not for the reasons you think, however, so that makes it a largely ineffective tactic in trying to get your head out of the muck.”
Serena held up a hand to forestall any protests from her friend. ”And before you say anything, I’m not gonna nag or plead with you to stop drinking, that you’re a good person despite what you think, that this isn’t you, because I’ve already told you all those things Khosin, and that was when your drinking wasn’t this bad. You already know everything I have to tell you. You just don’t care. And that’s the problem. We can’t make you see what’s good about you if you refuse to see it yourself, or even care for what we say. So. I’m not gonna yell at you or nag you or any of that, because it won’t work. I am, however, going to be here for you. You’re family Khosin. And I don’t give up on family. She paused in her work for a moment to smile at him. She couldn’t make the batarian stop, but she could be there for him through it all.
Khosin tensed up at Serena’s mention of his so-called ‘self-loathing bullshit spiral’, his nails painfully digging into the palm of his hands and his teeth gritting together. “Of course she’d call it that, explaining anything wouldn’t change anything. It didn’t for Dex and I doubt it would do anything for Serena.” The Batarian thought bitterly, frustration quietly but steadily rising up inside of him the more that Serena spoke. “If you truly care for me, if we are truly family…” Khosin began, fighting to keep his composure, “Don’t call what I’m going through bullshit.” He finished, practically seething with frustration, his nails still digging into his palm.
“You don’t know what I’ve been through, what I’ve done, so if you do care about me, don’t try to downplay what I’m going through. Not ever again.” He spoke, blood slowly but steadily dripping from his palms as he continued to dig his nails into the flesh of his hand, “I’m not so weak as to reach this point over trivial nothingness, what I carry is a heavy burden...forgive me if I’m being melodramatic but, please, if you truly consider me family don’t try and downplay what I’m going through.” He finished with a sigh. He knew that he was repeating himself, and that he truly had not addressed what Serena had said to him, but the way that Serena, and Dex, treated what he was going through infuriated him. What did they know of the blood that he carried on his hands? Of the guilt in his mind? Nothing, but the least they could do is try and recognise that what he was going through wasn’t some petty bullshit as both women had called it.
Serena’s eyes flicked briefly to his hand before meeting a pair of his eyes again. At least he was showing something other than depressed self-loathing. The fact that he reacted so harshly only confirmed hers suspicions of what he’s done. Oh Khosin. The past is the past, but you’re still letting it eat you alive. ”You’re right. I don’t. Because you won’t tell me. And I don’t think you ever will.” She paused, giving him an opportunity to prove her wrong. When he didn’t, she continued.
You know what I do know? I know that on the Borealis you were willing to die for people that hated you. I know that you ran across an open area through gunfire to save Iosef when a bullet took him through the leg. I know that you shielded Tanya from a rocket blast with your own body, when she was at her worst to you. I know that you have saved my life on too many occasions to count, purely because you’re a good man. Evil people don’t do those things Khosin. You made mistakes, so have we all. Maybe your mistakes are soul crushingly serious. That doesn’t change who you are now. Monsters don’t do this to themselves because of what they’ve done, Khosin.” Serena sighed, closing up his arm and leaning back.
”I’ll make you a deal Khosin. I won’t downplay whatever it is in your past that’s eating you up. You won’t downplay whenever Dex and I and whoever else say that the past is the past and all that matters is what you do now, and that everything you’ve done now has been the acts of a man who deserves better than what he’s doing to himself now.” Serena held out Khosin’s prosthetic arm to him. ”Deal?”
Khosin let out Serena speak in silence, shoulders sagged as he listened to his friend as she tried to convince him that he was a good person. “You don’t understand,” He said with a sigh, shaking his head slightly, “How can I leave all that I’ve done behind like it didn’t happen? All the blood that is in my hands, all the lives cut short because of my actions…” The Batarian spoke, his voice haunted with regret and guilt. “If I don’t tell you it’s not because I don’t trust you, it’s merely because it wouldn’t make a difference.” He tried to explain to Serena. He had told Dex, and even when she knew some of the things he had done at Mindoir she still didn’t understand why he still carried the guilt.
“There’s something I once heard ‘Life is but a grace period before death’” Said Khosin with a sigh “I’ve spent most of my grace period making the universe worse. That’s why I’m here in the Initiative, because I want to do some good before I’m gone, it’s why I still get up every day, even if most of the people here hate me even more than Tanya did at her worst.” He continued, shaking his head a bit, “As for why I did all that...well, it should be obvious, you guys were...well, family. I couldn’t let any of you die. Sure, I wasn’t as close to Tanya or Iosef as you were but I still cared about ‘em, well I still care about Tanya since she came with us Iosef’s probably long dead since he didn’t came to Andromeda.”
“But, back to the point,” He said as he shook his head “I also knew that other people in the Borealis cared about them, like you, which is why I couldn’t let them die. It’s not like I did it for some higher, altruistic, purpose.” The Batarian finished with a sigh, shaking his head at the ‘deal’ that Serena offered him “But I can’t do that Serena, the ghosts of what I did, the guilt I carry, won’t go away because of a pep talk, I doubt that they’ll go even with therapy.” He tried to explain himself, even though he knew it was most likely in vain. How could he deserve better than what he was doing to himself? He had been complicit in one of the worst atrocities seen in the Milky Way, and even before then he had been doing the Hegemony’s dirty work for years before he finally lost any and all shred of morality or decency by joining the Mindoir Raid.
“I know this isn’t easy to hear, and I know you’ll try and convince me otherwise, but it’s the truth Serena, as unpleasant and hurtful as it is.”
”And here I was, thinking my pep talks were things of healing and beauty.” Serena cracked a smile, but it never reached her eyes. It hurt to hear all of this, his refusal to even try to see things their way. But it was all she could do now. She would keep working on him later, but right now she wasn’t getting anywhere. Handing him back his arm, Serena paused in thought. They needed something to change the conversation too that wouldn’t circle back to Khosin’s depression. ”You know, I’m rebuilding BARAT in the Heleus Cluster. I could use an experienced engineer to help me with the whole process. We’ve got a lot of new materials and objects to figure out, and I need someone to help with that. What do you say?”
Khosin let out yet another sigh at Serena’s reaction. Humans might as well be an open book for how easily readable their emotions where, “Serena, I ain’t saying this to hurt you needlessly. I’m telling you this now so that you at least understand, and to spare you any future pain.” He tried to explain himself even though he knew that it was, most likely, useless. “As for your comment on BARAT, sure, I can lend a hand but, please, no A.I. attached to the robot this time, ok?” He said softly, “The Initiative might be looser than the Milky Way society when it comes to A.I’s but there are still more than a few skeptics, not to mention rules to follow like those against unshackled A.I.” He cautioned his friend, “Please promise me you’ll steer clear of anything related to artificial intelligence?”
”In my defense, BARAT AI wasn’t planned. That just happened accidentally.” She squirmed in minor embarrassment, completely ignoring his first statement. He wasn’t doing any of that, and he should know better than to try to say he was. ”So it’s settled. You’ll help me one day out of our shore leave to work on BARAT. You’ll have to be sober for that, you know. Can’t muck about with alien technology while drunk as a skunk.”
She nudged him lightly with her arm. ”Can’t have you becoming the first Initiative member to have Remnant tech grafted to them or something like that.”
“I should probably be a bit tipsy you know, we don’t want another incident of ‘sudden A.I.’ here in Androemda, do we?” Khosin said with a light chuckle, shaking his head slightly “Seriously, be careful about with how much tinker for the drone’s V.I. ok? I think more than one person would flip if an A.I. suddenly formed.”
He groaned slightly at her joke about RemTech “Please don’t joke about that, you do know that there are strict laws about tinkering with the stuff right?” He said to her, “In fact, if my memory isn’t failing me, the protocol is that the Pathfinders, and only them, are the ones that are allowed to mess around with that stuff and that’s on account of their S.A.M’s so, best to steer clear of that, promise?”
[color=hoptink]”Whaaat? Me? Tinker with extremely-fascinating-self-healing-advanced alien technology? Why would I ever do that?”[/color] Serena sputtered in mock disbelieve. ”I’m offended Khosin. I really am. You think I would positively leap at the opportunity to tinker with and study Remtech? Perish the thought.
”Just out of curiosity, how strict are these strict laws?” Serena pretended to study her nails nonchalantly, as if she wasn’t balancing the risk against the possible rewards of breaking those laws.
Khosin groaned in quiet frustration at Serena’s words, massaging his temple with his fingertips. “You do know you are talking with someone who was part of the security detail right? I should probably drag you to jail now before you activate a factory full of murderbots under Prodromos or something.” The Batarian said, shaking his head slightly.
“I’m serious Serena, these laws are in place for a reason. We don’t know enough about RemTech to use it safely, this isn’t like Prothean tech that was pretty much ‘plug and go’, this shit is dangerous and I don’t want to see you fry your brain or set loose a murderous A.I. on us ‘cause you were tinkering with shit that you don’t understand.” He said to her, frowning at her nonchalance “I’m serious Serena, I swear to the Pillars if you break these laws I’ll report you myself and for your own good, is that clear?”
”Pfffft.” Serena sputtered at Khosin’s words, raising an eyebrow at him. ”You couldn’t drag me to jail Khosin. Check my bags before and after Remnant missions? Sure. Remove any RemTech that might accidentally fall into my pockets in the process of the mission? Absolutely. But actually drag me to jail or have me dragged to jail? You couldn’t. You know why?” She leaned forward and poked his nose, giggling.
[color=hoptink]”It’s cause you’re a big softie. And we both know it.”[/color]
Khosin groaned again, shaking his head. “I think you are underestimating what I am capable of doing for those I care about.” He said, frowning at the human girl “And, unfortunately for you, I do care for you. So, if the only way to stop you getting your hands into RemTech, and out of trouble consequently, is to drag you to jail, I’ll do it, even if you wind up disabling my prosthesis.” The Batarian said, his frown stil set on his face “I’m deadly serious about this stuff Serena, no RemTech at all, am I clear?” Asked Khosin, already mentally preparing himself from yet another nonchalant response from the part of the pink-haired engineer.
Serena sighed. ”I miss when you would just quietly chuckle and let me do my inane experiments and research. But fine, no messing with RemTech. At all.” She extended a pinky towards Khosin. ”Pinky Promise.”
“That’s because back in the Milky Way you wouldn’t go mucking around with Prothean Tech or any other insane shit like that. And, even then, you still wound up making an A.I. by accident. So I’d say my concerns are warranted.” He said, extending his pinky and wrapping it around Serena’s “Alright, pinky promise. Even though I still got no idea what this entails.” He said, letting out a chuckle. “Though, I think we are done here, unless you wanna tinker with my arm some more. C’mon, if you insist on nagging me so much the least you can do is come back with me to my quarters.”