"Thank you! Thank you!"
Zenn said as he took a bow. "Now someone trade me this mic for a glass of something strong so I can keep this buzz going…"
As Zenn looked out to the crowd waiting to see who would take his place, his attention was drawn to the back by the sound of glass shattering. There his gaze locked once again on Sol. It looked as though she was on the ground cleaning up a mess of some sort, and she seemed rather upset about it. Whatever had happened, Zenn needed to make sure she was okay.
He placed his mic back in the stand, then looked over to Playboy with a big smile. "Hey, Playboy. Thank you. Seriously. This was a blast! If you'll excuse me though… There’s something I've needed to do all night."
Zenn jumped off the stage and ran right past everyone else towards Sol. He slowed his pace to a walk as he approached her, then slowly knelt to the ground next to her once he was at her side."Everything alright?"
Even though Zenn made all attempts to make his presence known, Solveig's attention was focused on wiping up the pieces of glass. No damage done to the hand, but a bitch to clean up. There was always a piece that got left behind, ready to claim a barefoot another day.
It wasn't until Zenn was right there that Solveig spotted him. "Zenn!"
she said, surprised, scooping away the last of the glass from the floor. Oh, god."I -- uhh, just... A glitch. Own strength. Don't know it sometimes."
She blinked several times at him to readjust her stare. "Hi." Say something. "Didn't know... Didn't know you sang, Zenn,"
she said, tucking her hair behind her ear.“Yeah… Neither did I. Not really one to perform normally, but, thought I’d give it a try. Do something… Different…”
Zenn was doing his best to act casual, but yet again the moment he laid eyes on her face, he found himself petrified. Her eyes shimmering like a cluster of stars made even brighter by her dark eyeshadow. The way her black as night hair effortlessly flowed around her like silk across her glowing pale skin. The magnificent display of artwork she had that traveled from her neck down to her arms. Everything about her was enchanting.
So why did he think he even had a chance?
Zenn’s thoughts began to spiral back to what he had told Kysar. How he didn’t feel he measured up to Sol. It wasn’t just physically, either. Zenn had seen Sol in action and her level of skill was beyond anything he could ever achieve. She deserved someone who was her equal. Someone who-Be confident, even if you must fake it. But let your true colors shine through.
Zenn could hear Nadara’s voice in his head push away all the negative thoughts. He had to be confident. Be himself. Just step up like he did on that stage and let the moment play out.
Finally out of his head, Zenn cleared his throat and said “So look… I may have lied earlier. I actually wanted to talk to you about something.”
As Sol listened to Zenn, she couldn't help but notice he seemed to disappear somewhere, like his attention was caught up in a thought. Was he worried about something? Where did you go?
It was a curious thing that he did, intense and yet... So still. Different to the wild energy he had on the stage.
She met his gaze with concern, unsure what he'd need to speak to her about - let alone lie about it first. "Is everything alright?"
She began, "Is this about yesterday?"
She lowered her voice -- unsure just what the others knew about it all, instinct told her to lean in closer to Zenn, to keep it quiet and between them."What do you need?"
She asked, having assumed that he needed help with something again. Carefully, she reached out to place a hand on his arm, unsure of why she was about to do that. She brought it back to her side.“No. Well, kind of. Maybe? It was yesterday, but not not just yesterday… Even in Havana I… Watching you… Being around you… It was… I felt…”
Zenn was fumbling with his words. He knew what he wanted to say, but had no idea how to actually say it. He couldn’t just sit there silently staring at her again, but he also needed to stop spewing out random words. What was the right phrase? What if he said something wrong?Be open and honest and give her space and time to digest it. Ease her into it just as you did that hug.
This time it was Kysar’s voice that snapped him out of his panic. Open and honest. Ease her into it, then give her room to respond in kind. He had to stop over analyzing and just say what he felt.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sol reach her hand towards him, then quickly pulled it back. Without thinking, Zenn gently reached out his hand and took her’s. He paused for a moment, his heart beating out of his chest and his whole body was softly trembling. Here we go.
He breathed in deep, then finally let it out.“I like you. A lot. I think you are amazing in so many ways and I really want to get to know you more. You don’t have to answer right away, but I would love to take you out on a date sometime. Preferably some place that doesn’t involve getting shot at.”
As he finished speaking, he shut his eyes tight and tensed up. He didn’t know how she would react, but it was out there now. Nothing else he could do but brace himself.
Playboy took to the mic once more. “Who’s next?”
He asked, looking out into the crowd. His eyes fell on Cannonball, who was always certain to keep the party going. “How ‘bout you, Cannon?”
He asked, jumping down from the stage, toward the Volus, and gesturing that the stage was all his."I'll hop on stage with him!"
Zenobia declares, vaulting over a table and clearly a drink or two in at this point. Hardly makes a difference with her, but it's good to know.
"Yeah!” Himbo yelled out, stepping back from Nadara so as not to straight up yell at her face. "That's my best friend right there!" He yelled again, clapping his hands with a laugh in Playboy's direction before moving back in on Nadara, planting a kiss on the back of her neck. "I'm all yours now," he said as they danced together.
That wasn't so bad, Acid thought to herself as the other quarian ran on stage and belted out his tune. Given her line of work, she rarely if ever got to talk to her own people and every time it did it was a sobering experience. They really did have an innocence to them that she got drilled out of her a long time ago, maybe because she didn't live and die by the same dream of seeing Rannoch reclaimed that the rest of her species did. Hard to say.
Regardless, the tiny interaction went well enough, so she figured it wouldn't hurt to try again. This....'Himbo' character seemed safe enough. "Hmm..."
she muttered, wandering next to him as the turian who bullied her into being social tried to hop on stage. "Awfully tame entertainment by my standards.”
"Night's still young kid," Himbo answered Acid in between planting kisses on Nadara, swaying her in time to the music. Moving around the Quarian now too, but giving her a friendly smile all the same. "You must be Acid, yeah?"
Nadara relished in the attention Jonah gave her. His hands were certifiably skilled. The man knew exactly where to hold her, just where to add pressure, and the feel of his lips against her neck sent luxurious shivers down her body, gathering into a concentration of pure electricity at the base of her stomach. Sparks cascaded from there to lower extremities, and Nadara restrained herself from taking their heavy flirtation even further.
Just as she was about ready to turn and face the man to invite him to a more secluded room, the new team’s Quarian approached the couple. No social awareness,
she hissed in her mind, shoo!
The woman hadn’t even bothered to accessorize— there were clearly some screws missing, or perhaps they had used one too many on that suit and one had pierced where it shouldn’t?
Nadara thought the lack of enthusiastic response from Jonah would inspire the Quarian to seek attention elsewhere, but she didn’t budge.
With a dramatic sigh, Nadara pulled away from Jonah for what she hoped would be the last time that evening. After giving Acid a thorough stare down, she returned her focus to Jonah, eyes piercing into his. She bit her lower lip as she leaned in towards him and whispered in his ear, “Find me when you’re ready to get out of here.”
She offered a playful nibble on his earlobe before heading to get another drink. An unexpected, but not in the least unwelcome response came immediately as those skilled hands reached out and squeezed Nadara’s backside before she was out of reach. She turned her head and winked, sending Jonah a kiss through the air.
As Nadara worked her way across the room, she saw two figures hunched over toward the back and realized Zenn and Sol were… collecting trash from the floor?
Bewildered, she watched further, and couldn’t help but notice their body language, which was practically screaming. Ah, so it wasn’t me after all.
Finally pulling her eyes away from the two, Nadara found herself standing beside the massive Elcor and Kysar, who also seemed interested in what was transpiring between their teammates in the back. The pleased smile and glint in his eyes were something Nadara hadn’t expected from him. “Think he’ll manage to pull through?”
She asked the Turian.
Himbo watched as Nadara walked away - letting out a long sigh as she did, his eyes tracking her off the dance floor, his thoughts running wild. It was probably for the best that she'd walked away when she did... Yeah
Then, there was 'Julee' beside him, and she was an entirely different energy. Spiky and tough, not at all like Nadara. "Julee yeah? You can call me Jonah... That means we're the J J gang!" He grinned and held out a fist for her to bump if she was so inclined. He suspected she wouldn't, but people were often surprising.
"This ain't a mess, this is a good time. Get amongst it Jujube," he added swaying to the side in front of her, to see if he could at least get her to try dancing. Everyone loved dancing, right?
Tank stood wide eyed at Nadara's presence. With no context as to what was going on between Zenn and Sol, the giant Elcor had just been basking in the glow of a successful interaction with the Turian. Now with the Asari's appearance, this was something different altogether. She had spent the night displaying such public and personal signs of affection, ones that would be strictly outlawed in public on the Elcor homeworld.
The giant was sweating so badly, it would've actually been visible to those around. What to do? He'd been ordered to remain completely diplomatic at all times and he'd already broken protocol with Kysar. Interaction with someone who had committed such actions surely was off the table but he'd also promised his new team to make friends with all of team 2.
Perhaps if he stood perfectly still and closed his eyes, everything would be ok.
Kysar, on the other hand, had been watching on, smiling intently as the two fumbled their way through basic sentence structure. C'mon Zenn, stick the landing.
So engrossed in their situation, the Turian answered Nadara quite absentmindedly. "Yeah, he's got this."
Realising where he was, Kysar looked over to see the last person he thought would ask, speaking to him. Straightening up, he folded his arms together, standing on his back foot. "Get bored of your little plaything?"
He said, looking over towards Himbo. Shocked to see the human chatting with the Quarian, Kysar raised an eyebrow. "Or maybe he's got bored of you by the looks of things? No, that's impossible right?"
He smirked.That was. A lot. Of words.
Sol exhaled out a long breath as she let what Zenn said sit with her for a moment. She could feel his own trembling just from his hand. He's acting too nervous, but not in the dishonest way... He's not lying to you,
was what she told herself as she squeezed at his hand as if to try and stop his nerves.
It was an overwhelming amount of words to think about. How he felt so strongly and could be so open. Sol hoped he wasn't expecting that back...
She did like him, though. In a different way than she'd liked anyone for a long time and that was a truth that would normally bring her great concern and panic.
Sol chose not to question the things Zenn had said about her, and maybe that was because he'd already worn her down without knowing when he'd taken to the stage. Sol had no idea why that was so effective and attractive. It was so good that she was almost annoyed at it. Getting to know each other.
She could try that.You're overanalysing this. Just say something. Do something.
She wasn't ready to give a speech like Zenn, he was just going to have to wait for that, but two syllables were manageable in the moment. Two syllables and...
She pulled him in, just as he had done to her and Kysar - only this time it was just the two of them, and she hugged him - probably harder than she'd intended too, whispering a nervous, but sincere "o...kay."
Zenn’s body remained tense and stiff as a statue, but his eyes opened up wide as Sol pulled him in and hugged him. His entire face turned red and all the voices that had been screaming in his head went completely silent. She might have been squeezing him a bit tight, but he wouldn’t have had it any other way.“O…kay?”
he repeated, still in complete shock and even disbelief as he processed what was happening. It took him a second or two, but it did eventually register. She had accepted! “Okay!”
He repeated again as his body relaxed and he wrapped his arms around her. A feeling of joy and excitement that he hadn’t felt in a long, long
time overwhelmed him. Not even what he felt on stage or after a mission could top this.
Nadara chuckled at Kysar’s question, the pair’s eyes glued to the couple in the back as though they were watching an intense match that had a number of credits on the line. “That would be unheard of, yes.”
For the briefest of moments, Nadara glanced back at Jonah and the electricity inside her buzzed anew. She could only imagine how things were going for Solveig and Zenn internally. They were both so different from Nadara, who sought only a good time, nothing serious or long term. Asari outlived too many species to form any lasting bonds, but with no strings attached, both she and her partners could enjoy themselves thoroughly, living purely in the moment.
As she watched Zenn reach out his hand, the gesture so gentle and cautious, so open and vulnerable, Nadara knew that what they shared was entirely different to what she had with Jonah. Instead of raw attraction, a blazing fire that would consume the hosts and subsequently be snuffed out, their connection was softer, something that needed tending to, but that could ultimately become stronger than anything Nadara had experienced. “We’re just keeping the fire from spreading too fast,”
she said absently. “And you?”
Nadara blinked, suddenly recalling who she was talking to. “No declarations of affection planned for tonight?”
Kysar side-eyed the woman. No snarky remarks? No digs or quips? Who was he talking to? Perhaps Himbo, Spirits what a name.
had found a switch to get the gears turning off her mechanical heart. That was more believable than just her having a relaxed conversation with the Turian. Could there be more than just thoughts on fashion behind those eyes?
Kysar shook loose, No, don’t be ridiculous.
as he realised he’d been staring at the Asari for a moment too long. “I’ve done more than enough work this party,”
he remarked, looking back at the hugging couple. “I’ll leave it to the Spirits decide the rest of the night.”
The Turian smiled, yes he was happy for his friends but there was a hint of something more. Kysar had seen a great romance once before, his parents. A moment like this brought a memory long hidden away to the front of his mind. “I do plan on another drink though.”“I’ll join you as soon as we determine if—”
Suddenly, Solveig was returning Zenn’s gesture with one of her own, a full hug. “Well,”
she said, a smile on her lips. “Here's our answer.” Seems he didn’t need any further advice after all.
It was a tender sight, awkward though it was, with both of them still crouched on the floor. Why were they picking up trash anyway? Such a strange mating ritual, but Nadara supposed for the bleeding heart he was, it made sense for Zenn. Sol better not ruin that outfit.
she suddenly thought, urging the woman to stand quickly with her thoughts.
The Turian cocked his head to the side. First Amina, now Nadara? Was there something in the vodka?
Kysar opened his mouth, taking a deep breath in about to question it when he thought. I better just see where this goes, maybe there’s an agenda, maybe it really is the Spirits.
Closing his mouth, Kysar nodded. “Sure, they probably deserve some privacy anyway.”
The Turian thought, leaving Tank whose eyes were still closed and giving Nadara a nod to follow along.Honestly, I’m more surprised that they both didn’t cloak up to do this.
The hug was nice, Sol thought to herself, and very briefly there was a moment of quiet in her mind. Remembering where they were, she slowly let him go and stood back up again. "You know... Actually Zenn I wanted to talk to you too. Feels... Silly now, but still. Would you... A drink? Maybe? And to sit with me - I won't keep you. If you wanted to... Sing again, or anything else."Gods, who gave that Volus a microphone?
She looked across and saw that Zenobia too had taken to the stage. Things were about to get painfully loud.“Oh. Y-yes! Yes I would love to have a drink with you!”
Zenn said as he too pushed himself up from the floor. If he was being honest, he could have spent the rest of the night in Sol’s arms. But it was probably best they didn’t do that here. It hadn’t even occurred to him until then, but someone could have been watching… Whatever. He had nothing to be ashamed of. He could take whatever teasing the others might have ready for him.“Don’t worry. I think I’ve had my fill of singing for tonight.”
Zenn chuckled and scratched the back of his neck. He glanced around the room to find a good spot for them to sit when he spotted Kysar and Nadara talking with each other. “However, I do need to have a quick word with those two. How about you grab a seat on one of the couches and I’ll grab the drinks and join you as soon as I can?” "Alright, I'll be waiting,"
Sol answered with a nod before heading off.
As she sat down, while nobody was looking, she smiled in the dark, wrapping her arms around herself as if it would bring the feeling back. She wasn't quite seizing the moment, as it seemed to just be seizing her.
Walking up behind Kysar and Nadara, Zenn put an arm around each of them and pulled them in toward him. His mask concealed the huge grin he had on his face as he looked back and forth between them. “You two. I cannot thank you enough! I owe you both big time. If you ever need anything from me, just name it!”
He said and gave them both a firm pat on the back.
Nadara nodded to Kysar and pulled her gaze away from the other two. Before stepping away, she glanced up at the Elcor who stood still as a statue with his eyes closed. Were they prone to meditation? She never interacted much with their species, much too slow and glued to their strict rules of engagement to match her high energy. This one didn’t seem any different from the rest. “Feel free to join us,”
she said anyway, knowing by the time the massive thing started moving they’d likely have already downed their drinks.
Nadara easily caught up to Kysar but before they reached the bar, another set of hands lobbed themselves around her, granted, around her shoulders this time. The cool touch of the Quarian’s suit was enough of a giveaway as to who it was, but Zenn’s cheery thanks still came as a surprise.
It was a useful thing to have a Quarian’s debt. He’d already demonstrated a willingness to make good on what he owed, and their kind was typically honest and dependable.“I’ll keep that in mind,”
she responded, unable to keep a smile from forming at his infectious giddiness. “Do feel free to run your date ideas by me too,”
she offered. This was just the start after all, and Zenn still had a ways to go before things solidified. “Just.. perhaps not tonight. I anticipate I’ll be a bit preoccupied.”
Kysar, taller than both the others by a considerable amount, was yanked down towards Zenn practically choking on his happiness. "Yes,"
the Turian replied through struggled breath, "Very happy for you. Probably for the best if we don't keep score."
Kysar slipped out from under his arm and to the alcohol end of the table. "Afterall, you'll need something left to take her out."
Grabbing more vodka, a drink he knew they all could share, the Turian placed out three cups, one of which with a straw. Pouring a double for the trio, Kysar turned his attention to Nadara. "Anticipating anything else? Mrs Himbo on the horizon at all?"
He said, hiding a smile behind his own cup.
Nadara took the glass with an amused smile. This was much more pleasant than having a gun waved in her face and receiving an earful. Had that only been yesterday? Seemed like forever ago now. “Goddess, that callsign,”
Nadara groaned, rolling her eyes. “He should consider himself lucky for you to even suggest as much.”
She took a long slow sip from the glass, side eyeing both men as she did. “More likely to hear wedding bells from these new love birds.”
She cocked her head toward Zenn.
It wasn’t that Nadara didn’t consider Jonah worthy as a partner, much to the contrary, she was ready to enjoy his partnership all night long. She simply wasn’t ready to settle down quite so early in life.Date ideas?
Zenn's beaming smile vanished in an instant. Vot! I have no idea what kind of date Sol would like, let alone any human.
Grabbing the glass with the straw, Zenn took a large swig to restore the buzz he had going. Though at that point in the night he might have been crossing into tipsy. In either case, the vodka was just the thing he needed to dispel those thoughts. He didn't need to worry about what they would do now. He had plenty of time to plan something later. For now he just wanted to enjoy the night now that he has finally overcome his nerves. "I don't know, Nadara."
Zenn said while stirring his drink with the straw. "A handsome doctor like him? If it turns out he's rich then it might be worth settling down for a hundred years. But, uh, might want to invest in one of these."
He smirked and tapped on his mask.
The end of Zenn's sentence caused Kysar's eyebrow to raise. Does he mean that the human is diseased?
He thought, looking over towards Himbo shimmying across the gap between him and the female Quarian. Eh, he's probably not wrong."And if not him, who else? A thousand years seems like a long time to spend alone. One night can only go so far."
The Turian took a rather long sip, almost hiccupping after. Was the alcohol starting to get to him?
Nadara looked from one man to the other, uncertain of how she’d gotten into this predicament of discussing her love life. It shouldn’t be a surprise I suppose, given their lack of experience.“First of all, I need no rich man,”
she directed to Zenn. “My financial needs are perfectly met by my own assets.”
As for his second comment, Nadara wasn’t sure how to respond. What did he mean? It couldn’t possibly be a suggestion for bedroom play— regardless of how many drinks the Quarian had consumed she just couldn’t picture him speaking of those matters in such an offhand manner.
Before she could think of a reply, Kysar took Nadara’s attention. “Doesn’t have to be only one night,”
she explained casually. “And you shouldn’t equate being single with being alone. If I feel like sharing my bed, it’s hardly a matter of how, as it is a who and when. In any case, a thousand years is much too long to think about now.”
Nadara raised her glass in a cheer and downed the rest of the alcohol, shaking her head which then caused the rest of her to shimmy in turn. She popped the glass on the table and began refilling it. “Let’s enjoy tonight instead.”
She smiled playfully, holding the bottle out as if to refill their glasses as well.
Zenn could tell from the confused faces from his friends that his comment went over them. Had they not noticed? Maybe it wasn't as apparent to them as he thought, but each time Himbo was around Zenn's suit detected a change in air quality. Oh well. If they didn't notice anything then it probably wasn't actually that bad. And he wasn't about to ruin this moment by explaining that, especially now that Nadara was offering a toast to them enjoying the night."I’ll drink to that!”
Zenn cheered, raising his glass with her, then chugging the rest as fast as he could through a straw. His face twisted up a bit as he felt the vodka burn down his throat, but he powered through it. Once he was sure he had it all down, he held out his glass to Nadara for a refill, but also grabbed a second glass for her to fill. “Well, if you two will excuse me, there’s a beautiful woman who just agreed to go out with me waiting for me to bring her a drink. I’ll catch you both later!”
He said and let out a small excited giggle before stepping away.
Walking across the room to Sol, Zenn had a bit of trouble keeping in a straight line. That last glass of vodka must have already been taking effect, but he already did what he came here to do. If this next glass with Sol was enough to get him fully inebriated, then so be it."Sorry to keep you waiting."
He said as he sat down next to her and held out the spare glass of vodka for her. "So. What did you want to talk to me about?"
The way that Zenn swayed over was a curious thing. How much of the vodka has he had?
Sol asked herself, slightly amused. It was for the best he'd sat down for now."Right..."
She began, taking the glass from him."Yesterday, you helped me with something... Of a small personal matter-"
Sol fidgeted in her seat slightly, crossing one leg over the other and bringing her hand into her lap. "I - well, just know that I appreciate it."
She retreated to the glass."Hey, it was nothing. I just wanted to make sure you knew we were here for you."
Zenn placed his hand on Sol's shoulder as he spoke. "We're a team. That means we look after each other. No matter what you're facing, you can always count on us!"
Zenn lifted his glass towards her's as a way to initiate that human custom she had taught him and Kysar before.
The courage to tell him that it meant more to her than nothing wasn't there, maybe it had all been used up earlier. Instead, Sol lifted her glass to him and gave a slight smile. "You're right,"
she added, touching the glass to his before drinking down the shot, having forgotten her own practical joke."So..."
Sol wanted to keep the conversation going - mostly to keep Zenn in her company at least a little longer before he went off for more fun. This was the first time she'd even spoken to him alone, she realised."Tell me... About yourself. Your skills - I'm curious about how you learned to shoot so well."
Zenn touched the glass to his forehead only to see Sol down her's without doing the same. He raised an eyebrow at her, confused how she could miss such an important step, but ultimately assumed she was probably just too eager for the drink. Regardless he took a full swig from his glass before answering her question. "I was an orphan raised by hanar assassins. They trained me to be an unstoppable killer."
Zenn explained with a serious tone, but his mask hid a mischievous smile. "I was offered a position as a spectre, but I had to turn them down so I could track down my parent's murderer…Hehehe."
Zenn started snickering, unable to keep up the ruse. "I'm sorry. That was the plot of Blasto 3. Truth is I ran with some ex-turian spec ops during my pilgrimage. They literally taught me everything. Before that I had barely even held a gun let alone fired one.""What about you?"
Zenn asked and leaned in a bit closer to Sol. He rested his elbow on the back of the couch and placed his head against his hand. "How did you become a badass N7 operative?"
For a moment or two, Sol was hanging on Zenn's words as if they were truth - and when he finally revealed they weren't she narrowed and rolled her eyes playfully, before resuming to listen to him."Well... I was an Alliance Cadet at 15 and worked through the academy for 5 years until-"
she paused, noticing then that he'd moved closer to her. Her gaze softened. "I uhhh, not really a badass move on my end."
She was nervous. "Ummm... just needed the resources for the Reaper threat, and brought me in... Not a lot of Special Ops happening that were more important than that at the time...""Not badass?"
Zenn blurted out in disbelief at what he heard "Sol. I watched you jump on and subdue a brute! Crush solid steel like it was paper! You even sniped a guy from a tower and took his place without any of his allies noticing! Meanwhile, I tried to throw Outcast when we met him and he pinned me to the floor. Then Amina hit me in the stomach with a briefcase… Then later I got shot in the leg…"
Zenn trailed off, looking into his drink as he twirled the glass to spin the straw around until it rested in a spot he could drink from. "What I'm trying to say is, you're not just a 'needed resource'. You're an incredible operative!""Ahhh..."
Sol began, fixing her hair behind an ear again. "So you have been watching me..."
she added in a coy fashion, turning her face away from him, her cheeks slightly red. All of those things were true, but to her, simply her job. It was nice to be noticed positively, by him especially, she felt. "Don't be so hard on yourself Zenn. You saved me from the husk... You set off that device on the ship with tactical thinking... Not to mention your wonderful piloting..."
Sol felt more at ease, maybe the alcohol was taking a positive hold of her, allowing her words to come forward - even if they were spoken quietly."Oh yes. My piloting was so wonderful I smashed into the controls breaking the damn thing and probably gave myself a concussion…"
Zenn chuckled sarcastically. Followed by one of his signature pauses as he stared at Sol tucking her hair and blushing. "Keelah you're cute…"
Zenn's eyes grew large as he realized he had just said out loud what was supposed to stay in a thought bubble. He needed to change the subject and hope she didn't get too flustered. And stop staring at her like a creep!
He shifted in his seat to sit forward and face the party instead of Sol while holding his drink with both hands. "So what made you join the SRN? You could have remained with the Alliance."
He asked rather quickly before sipping more vodka from his straw.Did he just call me cute?
Sol too, straightened up quickly, sidling away from Zenn, and cleared her throat. Calm down. Back off.
she told herself."I... am still with the Alliance... I suppose,"
she stammered out again, whatever cool ease she'd just had was gone. "Between handlers right now, and... Here to see Katya to be better. Leave of absence... She... She brought me to SRN.
She quickly added. "What brought you here?""The war."
Zenn replied very straightforward. "They needed more troops on the ground in London for operation hammer, so me and handful of quarians volunteered... Of course the admiralty didn't tell us they planned on leaving us behind... Not that it matters I guess. My whole squad was wiped. Heck it's a miracle I even made it out, so it makes sense they didn't even try an extraction... Can't risk the safety of the flotilla, right?"
Zenn said trying his best to feign an uncaring attitude, but there was a distinct pain in his voice he couldn't hide.
Looking at Zenn with concern in her eyes, Sol felt the pain that he was trying to bury. "Zenn,"
Sol said quietly. "I... I'm so sorry,"
her brows furrowed. "I had no idea... I'm sorry."
She admired him, for being able to carry himself with such a positive attitude all the time, and for the way he always reached out to others. Their pain wasn't too dissimilar and yet on the surface they handled it so differently. She wished there was more that she could say. She settled for placing a hand on his, just so."It-It's fine. Really."
Zenn was still attempting to put on a strong appearance, but with all the drinks he had combined with Sol's hand on his, the facade was failing. "I mean. If they had, I wouldn't have joined the SRN and met all of you! And we're doing good work out here! We even just saved a group of quarians so it's kinda like I'm still in the marines. So it all worked out! It's not like I wanted to set foot on a home world I fought nine years for. Or see my parents just to let them know I'm still alive…"
At this moment, the quarian was extremely grateful for his mask as it hid the tears rolling down his cheeks."S-Sorry."
Zenn shook his head trying to snap out of this depressive spiral he was on. "This is supposed to be a party and I'm killing the mood. Let's, uh, let's change the subject.""You're killing nothing,"
Sol said quickly, squeezing his hand. "Besides, I'm hardly Miss Party... Bonanza over here."
She chuckled slightly, taking note of all he said of his family. His home planet. She wouldn't push him on it if he didn't want to talk. "My last party was..."
Sol broke for a moment while she really thought about it, the last party she'd been to. "Eleven years ago. And Wistrom family parties were never done unless at least 3 people were in tears, someone has been punched, and my dad is shit off his face and responsible for all of it."
Zenn gripped her hand back, maybe a little too tight, but he was still trying to get a hold of himself. Sol's story definitely helped, though, as he let out a genuine chuckle as she finished. "Your family sounds like a wild bunch. I'm sure there was never a dull moment in your household... but I have to ask. What happened? Why didn't you attend any of those parties for eleven years? The Alliance can't be that strict on leave time, can they?""I mean... Now that you mention it, a Wedding but,"
Sol glanced down. Zenn had just shared something so vulnerable with her and she knew she didn't want to open that box herself. Her eyes fell on her arm, and even just thinking about it again... "I just, changed...
If I told you about it... We'd have nothing to talk about on our date..."
Sol tried to make it sound more intentional, alluring. More than the real reason - that she was just scared. That she just wasn't ready."Oh. Right. Sorry. That's a bit too personal. Guess I got a little carried away there."
Zenn admitted. He could tell Sol was getting uncomfortable with this line of questions. He briefly looked away from her and sucked down the rest of his vodka, but intentionally didn't let go of Sol's hand the whole time. Once his glass was empty he set it down and turned back to her with a new determination to brighten the mood. "Alright. New topic. What do you think about dogs? Be honest because it has recently become a big deal for me.""That dog of yours is a serving SRN member,"
Sol said. "He was with us in Windhoek. I don't remember so much detail but... He was there."
She smiled, and began rubbing her thumb against the back of Zenn's hand absentmindedly. "I like dogs, and I like that dog."
Kysar swirled the vodka around the cup, eying off Nadara. Everything was just so surface level with her. It was to the point where he'd wondered if there really was anything underneath. Were there any deep thoughts or did nothing extend beyond her own nose? Time to find out.
He decided."Two nights, four, a week, a month."
The Turian shrugged, taking a quick shot of vodka. "It doesn't matter, that's not what I was alluding to..."
Kysar let the sentence trail off, taking a moment to refill his drink."And, of course, being single does not mean loneliness, companions come in all shapes and forms. Zenn is friends with a slobbery human animal of all things. But all living creatures need camaraderie, you can only survive for so long on your own."
Kysar took another shot, watching the Asari out of the corner of his eye. "And as I said, you've got the longest out of any of us."
Nadara laughed as Zenn walked, or better, stumbled his way back to Solveig, and she was impressed to see him actually make it. How far he would continue to make it was now the only question.
When she turned back to Kysar however, her mirth was quickly dispelled. Seemed the man was intent on discussing morbid issues. After filling his glass, she placed the bottle back on the table. “I’ll need the stronger stuff for where you’re headed,”
she said, looking around for a bottle of esala. “I need no reminders of how long I have.”
Nadara didn’t want to think about how she would outlive almost everyone she met outside her own species save some Krogans. Didn’t want to remember how there were already countless who had succumbed to old age given their short lifespans. How much harder it was if you allowed them to take residence in your heart.
Finally locating the bottle she sought, Nadara quickly downed the remaining vodka and refilled the glass once more with the pale green liquid that quite complimented her own skin tone. Aside from the delectable taste, Nadara loved the aesthetic of the Asari drink.“Companionship does come in many forms,”
she agreed, after taking a sip (esala was best savored in small quantities at a time). She realized her extended silence wasn’t going to bring a change of subject from the Turian. Why was he so prone to philosophizing? Well, if that’s what he wants…“Unfortunately, the example you touched on is far too similar to what Asari experience with most species. Your lives are short, and ours are long. Much like it is with humans and their dogs. Just as this doesn’t prevent them from seeking out these interspecies friendships, we’ve learned there is much benefit to doing the same.”
Nadara closed her heart to the pain of that loss long ago. “I’ve learned the best way forward is to live in the present, enjoying the time yet available, and honoring each by living those short moments to the fullest.”
She took another sip, relishing the effect the alcohol was finally having on her. Memories faded into a haze, and she was left with a soft buzzing feeling in her mind. “I have traveled far in my years, Kysar. I have befriended many and met even more. I have no shortage of acquaintances in this galaxy.”
A light smile played on her lips.
Zenn rested his head against the back of the couch and turned to look at Sol as he listened to her. It overjoyed him to hear her speak of his companion in high regards. Ranger really was a great companion and Zenn was lucky to have him.
When she was finished, Zenn simply continued to sit there in silence. Just staring at her yet again. At least, that's how it appeared at first. But Sol would quickly notice his hand go limp in her's, and his empty glass slip from his other hand and clatter on the ground. The quarian had been running around all night, dealing with a lot of emotional stress, and drinking a bit more than he should and it had all finally caught up to him.
Sol had settled back into the couch too, feeling a rare sense of relaxation as she held Zenn's hand in her own. When it went limp, she looked in his direction and smiled slightly. Party's over
she thought, grabbing the nearest blanket to drape across him. Wistrom family parties often ended this way too, someone on the couch needing a cushion and blanket. "Sweet dreams, Zenn."
As she went to get up herself, and pick Zenn's glass up off the floor, a searing pain throbbed in her back and she took in a sharp breath, having to push herself up from the couch using her arm with a groan. Scowl replaced smile and her eyes narrowed. She let the pain go through its cycle of burning white hot through her system until it simmered to an ache. Best to leave before everyone else flooded out.
Wrestling a brute, lifting a Turian, and ripping through a Quarian ship, while badass, was not easy on the body. But that was her job. Victory at all costs, and always keep going.
Mission tomorrow. She needed her sleep, she needed the pills that were stowed in her belongings. Party's over for me too.
With that, she lowered herself back onto the couch, rolling her shoulder back to relieve a twitch that was stuck somewhere through her arm. Whenever everyone was ready to leave, so was she.
Kysar leaned up against the table, crossing his arms over as he watched Nadara. His line of questioning had made her look uncomfortable, perhaps even a little irritated. Good.
He thought. Means there is something more there.
The team was only as strong as its weakest member and that went for mentally as much as it did physically.
The Turian continued to watch and listen, making mental notes as the Asari phrased her sentences in interesting ways. As she finished, two things stuck out to him. She had claimed to befriend many but then referred to them as acquaintances in the very next sentence, could've been a slip of the tongue, or something more. Kysar stroked his chin, choosing his next words carefully."Interesting you say 'short moments'. A relative term to use. What's short for me would be long for a creature like Ranger. What's long for me would be short for you. Seems to me what you mean to say is 'shallow moments'."
The Turian stood, shrugging his shoulders and closing the gap between the two. "I'm not having a go at you Nadara, maybe just trying to give you something to think about. It's hard to live something to the fullest where there is no depth."“You can think me shallow if it suits you,”
Nadara said, not taking offense to Kysar’s words. She kept most at an arm’s length, and was unsurprised that some would think as much of her. “I appreciate you might be trying to teach me something, but I’m not a certain one who hasn’t lived as long as I have, nor can fathom the entirety of the life I will live, should I survive these missions, knows enough to offer the lesson it seems you wish to impart.”
She paused then, considering her next words.
After taking another slow and deliberate sip, she continued, “Still, I appreciate your wisdom, and will leave you with some of my own.
“Have you been to the ocean?”
Kysar shook his head. “So you’ve never seen water so clear, the bottom of the sea is exposed for all to witness.”
At this, he shrugged, seeming as though he wanted her to get to the point already. “The thing about clear water, Kysar, is that you can never be sure how deep it is simply because it seems exposed. Might be shallow enough to reach your knees, or it could drown you with its depth.”
She shrugged then and gave a friendly laugh. “But what would I know of such things? I’d rather stay ashore, or better yet, on a boat, and delight in sunbathing after all.”
Kysar sighed, holding the bridge of his nose. No, he didn't find her shallow, just her these so called moments she chose to 'live' in. But how could you go about explaining a point to someone who didn't want to listen? Were the only people she listened to even older than her? The Turian smiled as he imagined Nadara's mother might have something to say about that.
Kysar was also frustrated with her water analogy. Despite never being to the beach he understood what she meant. Ironically, he was trying to prove there was some depth to her. "I-er... yeah, sure. Sunbathe away I guess."
The Turian said, somewhat defeated.
She wondered what his momentary smile had meant but brushed it off as unimportant after his final addition. Apparently the discussion wasn’t going as far as she’d initially thought it might. Good, she was ready to return to the finer things in life anyway. Speaking of which… Where is Jonah…
It was Nadara’s turn to shrug now, but she still held her smile. “You know,”
she added before Kysar walked away. “It’s much easier to talk to you when you’re not waving a gun in my face.”
She blinked innocently and took another sip from her glass. “Makes it easier to actually hear what you’re saying.”
Kysar smiled again. “What? I thought you’re the one who’s always talking about accessorising. Isn’t that what a side arm is?”
Stepping away, the Turian half turned back. “Have a good night Heels.”
Nadara laughed sincerely and unguarded at the unexpected joke.
She raised her glass to him. Perhaps there was more to him than met the eye. “You too, Ky.”
Playboy enjoyed the party thoroughly. He’d bantered with his new teammate, shared a song with Zenn from team two, and was entertained by the subsequent performances from Cannonball and the wild female Turian he hadn’t personally spoken with yet.
When things started to calm down, he’d found the chef, D’Veo, taking away some dishes and replenishing others should any of their party feel like a final bite before leaving. After flashing her his most charming half-smile offering some disarming conversation while refilling his glass, she’d agreed to meet him for after dinner drinks when she was done for the night.
“I needed the break,” she said.
With an easy smile, and feeling lighter than he had all night, Playboy noticed his new friend asleep on the couch.
A mischievous smile crept on his lips as he approached the Quarian, already uncapping a marker he’d found in his jacket pocket, but was quickly dispelled when he noticed Zenn had a guard dog sitting next to him. Having already walked that way, he quickly straightened himself and his smile, giving the human woman beside him a nod. “Didn’t get the chance to make your acquaintance,”
he said. “But I hope you had a fine evening of it,”
he nodded to Zenn. “Thankfully not quite as fine as his.”
He gave a friendly chuckle. “I’m sure we’ll see each other at tomorrow’s debriefing, until then.”
With that, Playboy gave a short bow and skirted back over to the table lest the woman notice him discreetly placing the marker back in his pocket.
Carrying on, Kysar reached the lounge to find the new happy couple splayed out over the seat. Sol looked as if the world had just finished sitting on her shoulders while Zenn looked… “Is… is he dead?”
Kysar tapped on the Quarian’s helmet as if politely knocking at someone’s door.“Not exactly who I thought I’d be taking home tonight.”
The Turian chuckled, looking over at Sol. “Don’t worry, this time I’ll do the carrying.”
Hoisting his little buddy up as if the two were crossing the threshold together, Kysar remarked. “Let’s get outta here.”"Sleeping,"
Sol replied with a light shrug before getting herself back up again. She walked across the room slightly faster than Kysar, until she was stopped by another of the basecamp staff. They seemed insistent on her taking a voucher for a free double room for the night.
She took it in her hand. Truthfully, the thought of a proper bed was very tempting, but as Sol looked over her shoulder to watch the two behind her, she sighed. She waved off the voucher - indicating without words for the attendant to give it to them. It probably wasn't the best idea for Zenn to be cramped into an hour-long shuttle ride home. Besides, maybe they both deserved a better rest too.
As everything seemed to finally be winding down, Himbo felt himself getting wound back up. He watched the room for Nadara, and spotted her on the outskirts of the room with one of the Turians from Team 2. What was his name? Chrysler? Schneider? Eh, whatever.
He had to take care of something before he made his way back over.
While the music still played out, he added some melody of his own. A defeated trumpet, with a couple of snare drum hits kicked in at the end. Once again, he left it behind him.
As he approached Nadara, he wrapped an arm around her waist and whispered against her neck, kissing at her, "The doctor will see you now..."
Nadara felt the familiar buzz of electricity in her core at Jonah’s touch and turned toward its cause after quickly placing her glass of remaining esala on the table. Her eyes blazed seductively and she wasted no time in gripping the collar of the man’s jacket. “Good,”
she purred in response, pulling him after her. “The examination room is this way.”
Nadara led him farther into the back of the basecamp where private rooms had been made available for rent.