Zenn'Valin vas Konesh
Wraith & Shadow
After the mission briefing…
Well that was humiliating
, Solveig thought as she headed on her way back to the dorms from the communications office, having just got off a call to the ExSolar company. Another endorsement would have to be done. A photo of her in costume was required for their advertising. She sent Sunset a brief message to update her.
Making her way to her bunk, she stopped by her locker first, unlocking it to reach inside for something familiar; her pills. She shook the small container and heard the pathetic rattle of only a few left. Not good…
She bit her lip, and decided to take two anyway. The dorms remained empty, but she still wanted something a bit quieter. More isolated.
After a while of searching she found herself in the engineering wing, near some generators that were humming, hissing, and ticking away. The heartbeat of the SRN headquarters. The ambient noise and warmth was pleasant, she thought, and so she took a seat on the stairwell taking out her datapad. Some messages.
There was a message from her father. He was going to be in Geneva. That pain in her chest elevated again and she brought a hand there, rubbing at it. All that it seemed to do was spread the sting. She missed him. She reminded herself of her place within the Alliance. She wasn’t an N7 anymore, but… Not invited to a memorial for my own Mother…
Just as Slim said, Riley’s message was there - she gave it a quick scan and nodded, filing it away with a sigh, making a mental note of several details to inform the group of later. Something else too, a reminder, that she’d save to spend her attention on later when she had the time to accept the headache that would come with it.
She squeezed her eyes close briefly before opening the SRN news. Immediately she recognised the name Konesh. Isn’t that…?
she thought, raising a brow. How would Zenn feel about it? She wondered. Sol expected he would find it hard to swallow. She hoped he was okay.“Come here often?”
Zenn’s voice broke through the ambient sounds of the generators. The quarian stood at the bottom of the stairs leaning against the railing with his arms folded. “Kinda reminds me of being on a ship. Back on the migrant fleet, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing the engines hum.”
He was obviously trying to act nonchalant, but his awkward fidgeting dispelled any illusion he was attempting to create. “I uh, just dropped Ranger off at the… What do you call it? Animal daycare? Anyway, I was coming back from that when I saw you slip in here. Figured I’d come in. Say hi… So um… Hi.”
It was almost like thinking of him, summoned him. Solveig looked up from her screen to see him at the foot of the stairwell. He’s quieter than me…
she thought briefly, amused that he’d escaped her detection. “Shado–...Zenn,”
she said, “need something?”
She paused and assessed his relaxed
pose, and noted his fidgeting with a curious eye and quirked brow. “I mean… Hallå.”
She awkwardly lifted the hand that had been resting on her knee to wave softly at him. “Uhh… Did you sleep well? And feeling well?”
she asked, placing her hand back on her knee, then on the step beside her, then back on her knee, then back on the step. Just put it somewhere.
She placed it back in her lap.“Oh yeah. I slept great… For the most part… Guess I was pretty tired. And got a bit carried away with the drinks…I got your note.”
Zenn said and patted one of his pockets close to his chest, but continued to fidget and look everywhere in the room except at Sol. There was something he wanted to ask about, but he was having trouble finding the words to do it without making everything weird. Last thing he wanted was to make things awkward between them, especially before a mission, but sitting in silence like this wasn’t helping much either. He finally decided to just start talking and hope for the best.“So, funny thing. I went to check out at the front desk and they told me how you had been given that room. But… They um… They never saw anyone go in or out… And when I woke up it was just me… In the only bed… With this note… I guess what I’m asking is, what happened after I passed out?”
After he posed the question, his wandering eyes finally settled down to look at Sol as he waited for her answer.
Sol's eyes widened as Zenn recounted his version of events, and she began to understand that he thought that–. He kept that note… It was on a napkin.
Her thought was interrupted. "Well,"
she began quietly, and just like in the meeting earlier her fingers interlaced and she circled her thumbs again. "We talked… a lot, last night… A lot, for me."
Her brows furrowed as she worked through the murk of her own memory. "I thought that riding back to base would… Be bad so… Kysar stayed with you. I returned here."
She rolled her shoulder again and winced. "Very packed ride… Uncomfortable and loud, but. That's about it. I…"
she paused, and looked up at him too. "Does this help?"“So it was me and Kysar in the room? Whew!”
Zenn let out a sigh of relief as his whole body relaxed and his fidgeting ceased. “I’ve been worried all morning that we had shared it…”
A brief moment passed before Zenn realized what he had just said and immediately went right back to nervous panic. “Uh Not that I wouldn’t have liked that! I just… I want to take things slow. The last thing I’d want is to risk ruining our chances by rushing things again.”“Oh…”
Sol's face felt hot as she listened to Zenn talking. She smiled slightly, looking down again. "Slow works... I actually…. Well, thought maybe… You forgot, that uhh, question. That we sort of decided to-"
She stopped herself and looked up again. "Sorry. You make me… nervous."
The words came out without her really thinking about them, but having said them, she felt more relief for it.
Zenn’s arms slipped from each other and hung limply at his side as he stood bewildered at what he heard. “Me? Make you nervous? I think you’re forgetting who could bench press who with one arm. And I’m not talking about your mechanical one either. I should be the only one who’s nervous when we talk.”
Zenn turned his head away, hiding his face despite it already being heavily obscured, and slowly lifted his arm to grab the other. “Which…I definitely am. Do you know how many people I had to get advice from before I had the courage to talk to you? More than I’d like to admit.”
That was a surprise to her. That Zenn had to seek advice
on this? She wanted to know just who and what exactly he had asked, and then recalled an odd conversation with Kysar… Her eyes widened. "I… See,"
she began quietly. That explained a lot…
Pushing the thought from her mind, Sol decided to just be frank - as best as she could, anyway. "Nervous because… Any kind of talking… To anyone puts a knot in the chest. Also… Well, I like you, actually."
He had said it too - in a much longer, Zenn-like way of course, but he had. She gave a soft sigh and got up from the stairs, making her way down them to get to him. There he was again, she noticed, putting himself down. That had been what started him off the night before too. To talking about his team, of Rannoch… "I wish you can see how I– and how the team sees you, Zenn. I see so much…"
She gave him a playful nudge. "That I like… Enough that… Getting to know you more will be nice."
It was easier to talk to him like this. Alone. In a safe place."Heh. Yeah. Right back at ya."
Zenn sheepishly replied. She really did see a lot in him, didn't she? Things even he couldn't. The more he spent time with her, the more he really felt confident in this actually being something real. Of course, he had to remind himself not to make such conclusions until after their first date. Which reminded him."Speaking of… Any dietary restrictions? I'll need to know before I book any of the places here. Assuming our schedule is even flexible enough to make a reservation anywhere."
He said with a light chuckle at the end.
Sol’s head tilted to the side. "Vegetarian,"
she answered quickly, trying to catch his eyes with her own - a softened gaze. She could still sense something in him that was almost shy. In the background, she could hear the rhythmic hissing of the generators and she'd passively picked up their timings too. All this talk of a date, even though she was trying to help Zenn, and even though it felt good to do so… There was still an anxious gnawing in her stomach, something that didn't entirely quieten down."Anywhere is fine, Zenn…"
She added after a pause, bracing herself. "But not a party or a meeting… I can…"
she reached for his hand and took it into her own. "Do this."“Perfect. Vegetarian it… Is…”
Zenn found his words get stuck in his throat as Sol tilted her head to meet his eyes. He didn’t think he could blush more, until she took his hand and reaffirmed that she wanted to do this. His entire face burned red behind his helmet. “Yeah. Same. I… I really don’t like parties. Last night was an exception…”
As he held Sol’s hand and looked into her eyes, a small part of him wondered if this moment could last forever. Forget everything else, just focus on the two of them and see where things go. But a louder more prominent part cut in and reminded him that they had a responsibility to help SRN, to help the system. There were a lot of problems that needed attention and if he blew them off for his own selfish desires… Well. He had been down that road before. “We should…Probably finish preparing.”
Zenn said, once again turning away to break eye contact, but leaving his hand in hers. “It’s a long flight to Mars. I just hope the pilot we get knows what they’re doing. I’d rather not be tossed around the ship again.”
He snickered and turned his head back slightly to see Sol’s reaction to his joke.
That caused Sol to chuckle ever so slightly. “You still flew it better than Kysar or myself…”
she teased, “even with a concussion… Piloting, not our strong suit… Two wheels on the ground though…” Would Zenn like motorbikes?
the image piqued her curiosity, and brought upon a slight smirk before she was swiftly pulled out of that thought when she focussed on Zenn again. There was another brief moment of him disappearing back into himself. She gave his hand a slight squeeze of encouragement to draw him back to the stairs for a moment - as if to tell him to slow down - that they didn’t have to leave just
As Sol sat back down, she heard the expected hiss of one of the generators as if it were like clockwork. “Zenn, wait…”
she said. “I…”
she paused, unsure of how to approach the subject, or even what to do when she got to it. Just like piloting, sensitive conversations weren’t comfortable for her. She took in a steady breath and decided once again, that being upfront was the best way. “The news today… I saw the name Konesh – I… Worried about you when I saw it. Wanted to… I mean, if you wanted to talk about that…”“It’s…Fine.”
He said in a low tone that did not sound like it was fine. Zenn’s entire demeanor shifted from his nervous awkwardness to something more…Distant and uncomfortable. He pulled his hand away from Sol and turned not just his head, but his whole body away from her. He had found out just this morning after the meeting. His ship. His captain and crew. All of them were still in the system. And not only had they still left him, but they had sided with someone he considered a terrorist. It was a lot to take in, but he had tried to put it to the side. There were more immediate things that needed his attention.“Captain Gahn’Saaris is a man of action; sometimes to a fault. If he thinks his people are in danger he won’t hesitate to act, in some cases without thinking things through. I’m sure this is just a hasty reaction to finding out about quarians potentially being marked as a ‘species of concern’… I’ll handle it later but right now… We’ve got more important things to worry about.”
He explained, the whole time staring idly at one of the generators.
Sol's head tilted again as she listened and observed Zenn, all the while, the hand on the stairwell feeling out the vibrations around them. She didn't know how he was feeling inside, but she knew how she did about her own circumstances. What he said was true, there were more important things, but her gut told her this was important too. Zenn was important. His feelings were important. A life of having her own shrugged off and locked away… Maybe to some they'd turn the same way. Not Solveig. She didn't want to inflict dismissal on anyone.
There it was, a click below them that began to swell up. If she timed it, she had a few seconds. "Do you trust me, Zenn?"
She asked, not particularly waiting for an answer. She reached forward and grabbed his hand again, pulling him forward away from the stairs, her feet following the pressure in the pipes underneath them to the centre of the tiny space until… The vents released a stream of roaring cool air into the stairwell, and she yelled out into it. Her own voice getting drowned in that long sound but she released it regardless. Her frustration. Her bitterness. She bellowed it out toward the ceiling to be unheard, but felt.
Zenn was caught off guard by Sol’s question and her suddenly leading him deeper into the room. She took him to a tight space that had several ventilations nearby. Once they had stopped, Zenn took her other hand, fully intending to answer her question, when the vents erupted in a blast of air. Not only that, Sol herself erupted, screaming at the top of her lungs. Even being so close he could barely hear her over the rush of air blowing past them. He knew what she was letting out. He had read the news report about her mom the same time he read about the Konesh. She could have done this alone, yet she did this with him. She wanted him to see. Or maybe; wanted him to join.
He stopped thinking, and joined in. His voice joined with hers in a powerful loud scream to the heavens.
Soon enough, the pressure that had built up in the equipment subsided and the usual thrumming returned. In the silence, Sol waited a moment, her eyes closed as a deep breath left her. "I don't know why I just did that…"
she said; quiet again with a note of panic. A small giggle followed. "I just… I don't know."
She quickly regained composure enough to realise Zenn had taken her other hand, and that he too had something to scream out."I'm sorry about your crew,"
she finally spoke, low and sincere. "It's okay if you don't want to talk about it... There's lots I don't want to talk about either…"
She admitted, feeling like a hypocrite. She was giving Zenn more grace than she ever gave herself, in the same way that she’d do the same for Katya and Kysar too if they needed it.“Hey, you don’t have to explain it to me.”
Zenn said and squeezed her hands a bit tighter. “I know about your mom…I’m sorry we didn’t choose the memorial. If I had known…”
Zenn stopped himself there. She had just said there was a lot she didn’t want to talk about. Just like him with the Konesh. But that was the problem, wasn’t it? Why they had all this frustration pent up?“There’s always something, isn’t there? Another crisis waiting around the corner. Another situation that requires our attention and makes our problems seem insignificant; even if they don’t feel that way. So we bury them. Put the needs of the many above ourselves and hope that by solving a big problem our small ones somehow get fixed in the process.”
As Zenn talked, he took his left hand away, and reached up to place it on Sol’s shoulder. “But even if we don’t address or talk about them just yet…It helps to at least acknowledge them. Know that we’re not the only ones.” “Bottle until we’re screaming in an engineer's hiding hole…”
Sol broke their eye contact and looked down. Twice now, three times including Riley’s message, that her mother had been brought up today. It was so much easier when the feeling was just bottled and stowed away - and nobody knew. She could just do her job. All of these ripples just stirred it all up. That wellspring of grief that she had no idea what to do with. It had leaked over the sides. What was it? What is this fucking feeling?
she asked herself, closing her eyes again. She hated you. Couldn’t even look at you. Couldn’t even say your name for the last decade. “Hmmm-”
the sound Sol made seemed distressed, and she twitched at the shoulder as the feeling crawled down her spine, clinging to her beneath the surface. “I was made for crisis. Not made for this.” I don’t know how to feel.
Was what she wanted to say. She envied the way Zenn could speak like that. The party, the missions, the team… They’d all in some way been able to chip at something in her that was making her realise how deathly lonely she’d been and unearth something. Stop “Acknowledge and try again,”
she said, bringing back her composure.“Heh. I know what you mean. A reaper class threat we can deal with, but complex emotional problems? Can’t exactly fight those the same way. Not alone, anyway.”
Zenn looked down at his hand, still interlocked with Sol’s. The sight made a smile grow on his face in spite of the current subject. He began gently caressing the back of her hand with his thumb. He wasn’t sure how her bionics worked or if she could even feel this, but hopefully it would help to soothe her even a little bit. “But neither of us are alone anymore. No one on the team is.”Not alone…. Team…
Sol stopped, looking down at Zenn’s hands on hers. He was right. Physical threats were easier, there was usually a clear method.
Once again, Sol’s nerves began to swell - but for a different reason. Zenn was right, they were a team. That anxious feeling built up in her stomach again and she frowned inadvertently, hearing an intrusive voice. Nothing good comes from lies…
There was going to be another noise soon, seconds away - and she had those seconds to make a decision. Sol looked back up at Zenn. She trusted him, she decided. She grabbed him, her arms wrapping around his waist to pull him close to her until her face was near to his so she could whisper slowly to him. “Have to tell you something. Not here. Not safe. Soon.”
She was about to let him go, but found more that she needed to say. “Please trust me.”
To say Zenn was stunned was an understatement. Sol had her arms completely around him, and had pulled him in so close her breath could fog his mask. In any other situation, this would have been an extremely romantic moment. Of course, things were never that simple. There was still his suit separating them from any true physical touch, and this whole moment was to inform him of the existence of a dangerous secret. Was everyone here hiding something? He didn’t like it. All the secrets being kept from each other. But after everything they had been through, he trusted Sol with his life. He looked back at her as the sound from the rush of air died down and nodded. “Okay.”
She felt terrible for it, but the fact was, she didn’t want to lie to Zenn. Didn’t want to keep secrets, no matter what they were. Even one like hers. Just tell him that.
The words didn’t come, instead, she just held him for a moment longer, feeling guilty at the thought he might feel burdened now, or concerned. Idiot. You’re an idiot. “Everything is alright,”
she said as she drew back, trying to offer reassurance in case he was
worried. “I just want you to know… Me.”
Her voice was still quiet. “That’s all.” “I want that too, but only at your pace.”
Zenn reaffirmed. “I know you’ve done what you can, and while I’m curious for sure, I’m fine waiting until the time is right for the rest.”
Zenn tried his best to keep his words vague or even sound like they were talking about something else. He understood what she was trying to do. Bugs could be planted anywhere by anyone who wanted to monitor them. If she didn’t feel safe discussing it now; he wouldn’t.
This kind of closeness wasn’t something Sol was used to, but Zenn had a way of setting her at ease. She gave him a slight nod with an appreciative smile, just watching him for a moment, thinking about him too. There was a relief in her knowing he understood how to react.
It would be time to get ready soon, just like he had said, another threat, another mission - something to pull them away from their own personal problems, but also from small moments like this. Moments that she could find herself getting used to. Sol closed her eyes and exhaled. “Thank you Zenn,”
she breathed out steadily. Tentatively she brought her hand to his chest where he’d tapped her note earlier and drew a small circle with her thumb bringing it back again as she often seemed to when she felt things too quickly, like she’d been pulled back to a state of regular programming. “We should… Think about heading off…”
Even though his armor and suit were between him and Sol’s fingers, he could swear that he could feel her touch. The intricacies and worries of their conversation fled from his mind as he watched her draw her finger across his chest. Though it was in his mind, the feeling still lingered even after she recoiled her hand back. It took him a moment to break his trance and reply to Sol’s comment. “Y-yeah. Need to make sure we’re ready for this… For the mission I mean!”
Sol gave him a nod and one of her small smiles, unaware of the fact that Zenn had been so affected by her gesture. Together, they headed to the armoury to prepare themselves for the mission ahead.