He took my hand in both of his. “I cannot repay the kindness you've shown me, siha” he said. I realized how much Thane touched me and how little anyone else did. He would brush his fingers across my back when he ushered me to the door after a talk, put a supportive hand on my shoulder when I had made a difficult decision on a mission, or simply tap his fingers on my wrist to draw my attention to a tactical issue during one of the many battles we'd fought. There was never anything inappropriate about these small contacts but I had never before noticed how often they'd occurred.
Feeling his cool hands on mine brought home to me just how much they'd meant. I may have been in charge and in control but how could I not crave physical contact after the intimate months Kaidan and I had enjoyed after defeating Sovereign? A rush of guilt tore at me but I fought it back, telling myself that Thane meant nothing more than to express his friendship. I tried to remember if I'd seen him do the same with any other members of the crew. Surely there had been instances where he'd placed a hand on Garrus’s shoulder in combat or shown Miranda through a door so chivalrously. I just couldn't call any to mind at the moment.
I consciously set those thoughts aside and focused on Thane. I may be the commander of this ship but not everything on it revolved around me. “I'm glad I could help,” I said. “You've been a good friend. Have you heard from Kolyat or C-Sec yet?”
“No,” he replied, “but I do not expect either of them to easily resolve what almost happened. Captain Bailey showed much more flexibility than I would have expected from Citadel police. I am grateful that you talked him out of arresting Kolyat...and me.”
I was pretty proud of that fancy verbal footwork myself. The mild blackmail material that Bailey had given me when we’d first arrived had allowed me to use what little clout I had left to convince him to ignore the likelihood that Thane was the suspect he had sought for years in a string of violent deaths. It only worked because those killed had been mercenaries well outside of the law themselves.
I was pleased to think that I had been able to accomplish something with my Spectre aura and badass image rather than my guns. For once, I hadn't been forced to kill a single person while I was away from the Normandy. I may enjoy confrontation but I was glutted on violence for the time being.
“I'd hate to have lost you to a C-Sec holding cell,” I said lightly. As soon as the words left my mouth I mentally buried my face in my hands. Why could I never say something to this man that didn't sound like a horrible pick-up line? I tried to look innocent, hoping that he had taken the words at face value as I'd meant them. Trying to clarify would only make me sound like a bigger idiot. The blinking and inane smile I could feel on my face were probably worse than adding “in a completely platonic, valued-member-of-the-team sort of way” would have been but it was a little late to backpedal after the lengthy pause.
Thane tilted his head just a little and I remembered that Drell had total recall. Was he compiling a full list of the idiotic things I’d said as I sat here looking like a dolt? But “as would I” was all he said.
I changed the subject, asking him about Kolyat as a boy. I relaxed into the rough purr of his voice and his reminiscences about being a father. He told me how little time he had spent at home, believing that it would help to protect his family from his professional life. Now that he had partially reconciled with his son he opened up more about Kolyat's babyhood and how leaving again and again had worn on him.
Thane thought that his work and the pain that it had caused him had led to the rapid advancement of his disease, a sort of karmic punishment for the choices he’d made. I stroked his hands, in turn, as he blamed himself for so many things. For once I could offer him a little comfort instead of leaning on his shoulder. I disagreed with his belief that Irikah's death had proven how evil he truly was and we considered the implications of doing the wrong things for the right reasons. It was something with which we'd both had plenty of experience. The conversation wound down and we sat quietly for a bit, our hands entwined on the table.
I felt so relaxed that it took a bit to dawn on me that we were holding hands. I gently disengaged from his fingers and quashed the pang I felt at doing so. Friends can give each other this sort of comfort without it meaning anything more, I thought. It wasn't like we had been doing anything romantic. He had been telling me about his dead wife, after all
I tried furiously to convince myself that I was trying to keep a professional distance from my crew but I knew full well that what I felt was guilt that I could be so comfortable with another man. Kaidan may have had two years to get over me but I'd had only a few months to grow accustomed to being without him and the pain of that furious encounter on Horizon was still fresh in my mind. How much could I love Kaidan if I could sit here with my hands in Thane's? Suddenly I was ready to cry. Damn you, Kaidan, I thought. I needed you and you left me.
I knew that I was being selfish and my confusion must have shown on my face. Thane was looking at me closely. I cleared my throat and stood. “I'm glad that things are looking up with you and Kolyat,” I said. “I'll talk to you later. Maybe you can tell me what you called me earlier.”
“Any time,” he replied calmly. His straightforward response only made me feel worse, as though he were giving me room to send all of the mixed signals I wanted without pushing me. Did he think I was interested in more? Did he want me to be? The idea was unbearably intriguing and I all but fled back to the CIC to bury myself in work.