Thane and I smiled at each other. I didn’t even care that I must have smelled like the ship gym after a full day’s worth of workouts. This had turned out to be the best day I’d had since I’d awoken at the Cerberus base. “I have never heard you laugh so freely,” Thane said to me. “It suits you. I had a great deal of fun thinking of ways to make you do so again.”
I refused to spend time picking that statement apart to decide if it should ruin my mood. “What about you?” I asked. “I’ve never seen you have fun. We’ll have to find more chances for you to let loose like that.” Thane chuckled and replied, “I never thought I would enjoy someone’s company so much again.” In my head I kicked my conscience in the ankle and told it to shut up if it couldn’t say anything helpful. I settled for saying, “I know what you mean.”
I glanced over at the others. “Who knew that Zaeed had a sense of humor?” The normally stoic Drell all but snickered and said, “Who knew that he was interested in women?” Thane gave a full laugh at my shocked expression. “I am not always reserved about such topics,” he said. “I know that you are uncomfortable talking about physical pleasure so I do not generally share such observations with you. I apologize if I have offended you.” He completely failed to sound contrite when he said it.
Apparently we were passing through some sort of thermal pocket because I could have sworn the temperature had just risen thirty degrees. A smile played on Thane’s lips as he watched me struggle with my reaction. I, singer of ribald songs in bars across the galaxy, had just been accused of being a prude by the most formal person I knew. I was embarrassed on so many levels that only an indignant squeak escaped me.
I knew we’d talked about Yeoman Chambers and my concerns about her fraternization with various crew members but I’d always been so careful to relate it to morale concerns with Thane. I hadn’t been shy about exchanging crude comments with Garrus and Jacob when we were at Afterlife and surrounded by nearly-nude and gyrating Asari. I’d shared jokes with Jack about the tight-fitting casual wear Cerberus had supplied to Jacob and Miranda. Joker had yet to succeed in his attempts to fluster me by talking about the sorts of sites he browsed on the extranet, even with EDI’s unexpected help in his efforts. But talking with Thane about sex just seemed wrong, like it would create some sort of chemical reaction that would infect our friendship with thoughts of even friendlier activities.
Unfortunately avoiding the topic hadn’t stopped me from becoming distracted by it. Had Thane been considering me in that light as well or had his breezy comment been a test of some sort? The fact that he so clearly enjoyed seeing me blushing and stammering didn’t answer that question. I’d taken pleasure in shocking a friend or two in my day, after all. It hadn’t meant anything deeper to me than liking to push the limits of someone’s comfort zone when I was feeling feisty, as Thane clearly was.
The shuttle docked before I could respond intelligently. Thane all but scampered out and disappeared as I was taken up with finding Tali a place to sleep. I filed a report for Miranda to send to The Illusive Man and headed upstairs to take a shower. I cranked up the radio in my cabin and did some serious getting down while I was getting clean. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt so good. I tried to think of a prank I could play on Thane to get back at him for leaving me so off-kilter. If I moved fast I could still get him while he felt good from being on Haestrom. But what sort of gag do you pull on a courtly professional assassin slowly dying of an incurable illness?
It would have to be something naughty, something to show that I wasn’t as straight-laced as Thane seemed to believe. For something particularly nasty, I decided to go to the expert: Joker. Unless he’d been lying to me all along he had some utterly offensive photos with which we could certainly arrange something funny. When I got to the bridge, Joker knew just the thing and took great delight in having EDI prepare a life-sized holo. We decided that the AI, who seemed to have developed an awfully strong sense of humor for a digital construct, would tell Thane that Dr. Chakwas needed him in the med bay so that I could sneak into the life support room. I thought that asking Joker why he had a tiny projector to hand for just such a thing would bring an answer I didn't want to hear so I just accepted the device and headed for the elevator.
When I reached Thane's room, EDI informed me that he was in the med bay so I walked in and headed straight for the window overlooking the core. I spared a look for our amazing ship's heart, remembering how Engineering on the SR-1 had been practically inside the thing. I was glad that the space around this version hadn't been wasted just so that we could all stand in awe next to it although the previous edition had certainly been dramatic. I shook myself from the nostalgia and took the projector out of my pocket. No sooner had I set it on the railing than the door slid open behind me.
“Siha. Were you looking for me?”
I turned, trying to act casual. I set my hands on the railing behind me and leaned back, resisting the urge to whistle innocently. “I wanted to talk to you about the mission to Haestrom,” I said, suppressing a smile. He'd crossed the room by then and was standing quite near. “I thought I'd take a look at the core while I waited to see if you'd be back soon.”
“Really.” Thane sounded doubtful. I'd never before been in the life support equipment room when he hadn't been here. He showed me how little I was fooling him with a lightning-fast move forward. He slipped his arms around me and trapped my hands on the railing. “Were you leaving something as a gift, perhaps? My reward for winning our little contest?”
I inhaled sharply as his body pressed against mine. I'd never been this close to Thane. Hell, I hadn't been this close to anyone since the last time I'd been with Kaidan. Thane was prying the projector out of my fingers but I couldn't concentrate on stopping him. I was overwhelmed; my heart hammered in my chest. Once he'd nabbed the device Thane began to step back, probably intending to see what it did, when he glanced at my face. He stopped and we stood for approximately three months staring into each other's eyes.
“Siha,” he breathed. I stopped myself from climbing him like a tree. I shifted a little in my discomfort and bumped the hand that held the tiny projector. It didn't take much to trigger the thing and it did its job, shining on the wall. “What's this?” he asked, turning it into the room. Up popped an enormous holo of a nude Krogan and an Elcor doing something I couldn't even define.
We both stood agog and then Thane started to laugh, stepping back to double over. I had to join in, both in relief that things had gone no further and at the bizarre talent my pilot had for doing things in the worst possible taste. We'd settled on something a bit more sedate but I had to agree that the impact of this picture was much greater.
The two of us must have sounded like loons and it was only a matter of time before someone walked into the room but we couldn't stop laughing. I wiped the tears from my cheeks and reached for the projector but I caught Thane's eye again. I could see that he was struggling to contain his hilarity and a small snort escaped him. We were off on another gale and I all but crawled over to shut off the foolish thing that he'd dropped at some point.
I was so weak that I lay on the floor for a moment, gasping for breath. Regardless of what else happened, I knew that Thane and I had entered a new sort of relationship. If it started this strangely who knew the directions it could take from here? I decided that I was ready to take a chance on some of those roads even though I knew that all of them led to the same place, where Thane died. When he reached down to help me stand I gave him my hand without hesitation.