Mass Effect 4 - The Streamer's Edge

Four centuries have passed since Commander Shepard destroyed the Reapers. In an isolated corner of the galaxy, a refueling station repairman discovers a terrible secret that could undo everything Shepard fought for. With a ragtag team of unlikely would-be heroes, he must race to the Citadel to warn the Council ... but will they even listen to him if he gets there?

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20. On the Mend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Please, Mister Cresste, lay back down."

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

Nodding approvingly, the asari continued, "You had some minor burns as well, but nothing that shouldn't heal with the proper treatments. As for your scaal friend, she seems to be pulling through physically."

Something about the way she emphasized 'physically' caught Finn's attention. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing, as far as we can tell, but she's refused to speak. I'm told that's normal for scaal who've lost their bond-mate. We also detected significant amounts of Nektar in her blood stream."

"Nektar." He replied, his spirits sinking. It was bad enough he broke her heart, but driving her to abusing drugs made him feel like a complete heel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It's not your fault, man. I heard about the Nektar; you know how that stuff hits Neukaraans. Apparently, she's been taking it for awhile."

"Awhile as in five years?" Finn asked, unable to keep the bitterness out of his voice.

Jake gave him a stern look. "Come on, Finn; you tried to help her. Things just got out of hand, that's all."

"Yeah." Finn felt worse than ever. Part of him wanted to crawl back to the Ulasomorf and just wallow in the shower for a few hours.

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

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

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

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

"Three days. Apparently there was a bit of internal trauma. No worries, though; they say you'll be as good as new by tomorrow."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finn chuckled. "True enough."

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

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

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

"Any interesting rumors?" Finn asked curiously.

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

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

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

"What." Eri said flatly.

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

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

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

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

"Smugly; Yep."

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

"Smugly; Yep."

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

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

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

She gave Jimmy a hug, saying, "I'm glad to see you're okay."

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

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

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

She rubbed his cheek, saying, "Good."

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

"I told you -"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking into her accepting eyes was too much for Finn. He could feel tears coming to his eyes.

"I screwed up, Kyra." He admitted. "I screwed up big. I wanted to help her, and all I did was cause her more pain."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Did you love her?" Kyra asked quietly.

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

He let out a sigh. "But she didn't love me. She was clinging to me to keep from drowning in her own despair. The other scaal, they acted as though she wasn't even there; Jake and I were the only other people who ever visited her. She was still in pain from the death of her bondmate, and was desperate to fill the emptiness with something."

"At first, I thought it might not matter. I still cared for her, and she wasn't shy about showing her affection." He blushed, adding, "It never came to … you know, that, though. Apparently, I wasn't a complete idiot. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that our entire relationship was a complete lie. I didn't know if I could live with that, even if she could."

"That's why you left." She said sadly.

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

"Hey." Kyra whispered, pulling him into her arms.

Finn closed his eyes, tears in his eyes as Kyra hugged him. "I just didn't want anyone else to be hurt because of me. I've messed up so many times trying to do what seemed right, and … "

"Shh." She whispered in his ear, her fingers running through his hair. "We're all broken, Finn. It's how we move past our flaws that makes us who we are."

A wisp of the song sung by Siren’s Call floated through his mind at those words.  He hadn’t thought much about them at the time, but hearing them now, coming from Kyra … it made him feel better.

After what felt like forever, Finn finally pulled away, sniffling.

"Feel better?" She asked, smiling at him.

"Not really." He admitted.

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

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

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

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

She pulled a small jewelry box out of her pocket, blushing as she said, "I picked this up for you while you were out. It … well, it made me think of you."

Finn took the box in numb hands and slowly opened it; inside was a silver chain necklace with a heart-shaped bronze pendant. The heart had a small crack on one side that had two tiny silver bandages over it.

Words escaped him. Fortunately, none were necessary. She pulled him back into her embrace and rested her head against his shoulder.

One final tear escaped his eye as he whispered, "Thank you."

"Anytime." She whispered back.

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