Kaidan took my hand and pulled me past the couples lined up for their turns. This appeared to be the place to be for a romantic evening. I tried to protest the unfairness of cutting ahead of them all but he shushed me. “That’s the advantage of calling ahead.”
When we neared the front of the line I saw an area cordoned off within which a few people craned their necks to watch others swooping skyward or drifting down again. Kaidan gave a name to the Asari standing just outside this seeming VIP section. She checked her omnitool and gestured us through the boundary. The already-stately pace began to slow and the thing came to a stop. Squeals of delight issued from above our heads as the oval cages tilted and swung.
Within a few minutes we were ensconced in our own little coop. A bench ran along one side with just enough room to stand side by side before it. The door clanged shut and a lock hissed, ensuring we wouldn’t be foolish enough to leap from the thing fifteen stories in the air. After the prison ship incident I was a little nervous about being locked up but as soon as we began to move I forgot my concerns.
Kaidan and I stood with our fingers meshed and watched as we worked our way up the skyline of Illium. An avenue between buildings gave us a column of light from the setting sun and a warm breeze blew against our faces. Neither of us spoke for what felt like hours as the thing stopped and started, letting new customers climb aboard at the bottom. When we reached the apex we were still dozens of stories below the highest towers but a glance down showed our dizzying height.
Except when I’d been spaced I’d never been this exposed so far from the ground. That had been quite different, what with the “I’m going to die in a moment” panic. The spark in my chest this time grew from pure excitement. I leaned forward as far as I could, pressing my nose against one of the bars so that my view was unobstructed and I could pretend that I was flying as we came back toward the ground.
I could feel a grin on my face and Kaidan’s hand in mine. As we completed the downward swing and the mechanism began its slow climb, this time without stopping, I turned and hugged him yet again. I felt wild, like I could do anything in that moment. I wanted to reassure myself that he really stood next to me, that this wasn’t some sort of stunning dream, though I doubted I could have made up something so strange and wonderful. He held me tightly, burying his face in my neck for a moment. I had to remind myself to block him as I gasped at the delicious contact. “So, you like it?” he asked as he raised his head, his own smile answering mine.
I assumed it was a rhetorical question, the answer obvious, but I nodded anyway. “Thank you,” I whispered, my voice carrying far more feeling that the simple phrase implied. I turned again, pulling him right up to the bars. “You have to try this,” I said as we reached the top again. We stared out, each with an arm around the other, as the buildings seemed to grow before us.
Of all of the moments we’d shared I remember this as the most thrilling and one of the most intimate. Hundreds of people surrounded us, above and below, but for that brief time we could have been the only two in the galaxy. I filed away every second, knowing that it would have to last me through the coming weeks and perhaps months apart from him. Combat may bring the adrenaline of fear but the atavistic rush of falling, even slowly, even knowing we were safe, charged me in a different way.
Kaidan laughed beside me. “You’re leaking.” I realized that I had wreathed myself in blue, failing to contain my new biotics in my excitement. I struggled to absorb the power; I could hardly go tossing shots randomly into the air, fun though it might be, with innocent civilians standing helplessly below. “Here,” he said, “let me.” I felt a strange draw, a pull at all of my skin and in the back of my skull. It stopped just short of pain, touching every part of me at once, almost erotic. Blue flickered over his arm, where it emerged from behind my waist, and then disappeared.
“Is that what it felt like when I was using your energy?” He nodded, that little smile at the corner of his mouth again. No wonder he’d been so eager to continue my lessons, I thought. “Gimme that back!” I siphoned a little of his energy, our close contact making it easy. His smile grew as we came around to the bottom of the circle again and I begged the machine not to stop just yet.
It must have heard me because we swung back into the sky again. Kaidan kissed me then, pulling again as he did so. I could feel it in my lungs, in my stomach, in places that were technically unconnected to those organs. I had to break away, little as I wanted to do so. “Do that again and we’re going to get arrested for indecent exposure when they finally open that door,” I panted.
He looked intrigued. “Really?” So I gave him a taste of his own medicine, retrieving some of what he’d taken. Proof that it affected him in much the same way rose against me. He made an appreciative noise then pushed me gently away saying, “I see your point. You’d better not do that again if I’m going to get out of here without causing a scandal.” I leaned into him and we went around again in companionable silence.
Nothing good lasts forever, so of course the next time we reached the top the attendants started letting people off, one cage at a time. I sighed and squeezed Kaidan tightly as our turn slowly approached. “This was the best idea you’ve ever had,” I said quietly. I wished for some malfunction that would keep us there just a little longer but of course we descended and were ejected from our little slice of heaven within minutes.
“I’m starving,” Kaidan said as we walked back to the taxi stand. “Let’s go get something to eat.” I readily agreed. The delightful energy exchange had burned up much of what we’d traded. He seemed familiar with the enormous city and found a market area with stalls where we could sample food from Asari, Salarians, and even Volus. Finally sated, I licked my fingers as he finished a last bite of whatever it was we’d been eating. I asked him something I’d wondered for days. “Where do you stay when you’re here?”
He looked around cautiously. “Big Al has a place he lets me use when I make my trading runs through this system.” I raised an eyebrow at him and he lifted one right back at me. I felt silly standing around in public using code names and telling lies but after all he was undercover as well. “Would you like to see it?” You will be unsurprised at my quick acceptance, I’m sure. So was he. We took yet another cab to a rooftop not far away. The elevator whisked us down twenty floors and he used a key partway down the hall. The apartment was tiny but one whole wall was a window. “They’ve replaced that with shatterproof glass,” he informed me. “It’s also rocketproof and one-way reflective.”
“So I could stand right up against the glass like this,” I asked, suiting my actions to words, “enjoying the view and no one could see me?” I felt him step up behind me, his breath warming the back of my neck. He gave a small hum of assent as he wrapped his arms around me, trailing kisses up the right side and down the left. I leaned against the window with a sigh.
“It’s so nice to see you without that stupid logo,” he whispered, picking a loose thread from my shirt where I’d removed it. Rawr, I thought. I turned in his arms and he pressed me against the window. I kissed him, pulling hard, and, well, yet again you’ll have to use your imagination for the next couple of hours, you nosy thing. Suffice it to say that the package really delivered.
I returned to the Normandy, drained in more ways than one but my feet barely touched the ground. As I fetched my comm unit from my bed I promised the cool expanse that I would be back soon. I went straight to the mess where I ate I haven’t the faintest idea what, but there was a lot of it and it came with beautiful coffee steaming in a big cup. Garrus stopped by while I was chowing down, took one look at my face, and did a happy dance for me. Too damned tired to join him, I saluted his attempt and thanked him. It relieved me that he could be happy for me after our recent shower encounters.
Turians, however, simply aren’t built for frolic. He was such a bad dancer, even after so much practice, that watching him brought a grin to my exhausted face. I’d smiled so much in the last few hours that my cheeks ached in the most fabulous way. I wondered if Kelly would eat Garrus up and spit him out or if he would even let her help him relax. There didn’t seem to be a lot of other options on the SR-2 for him and I felt bad that he couldn’t be as content as I was at that moment. “I see you picked up the package,” he said
“Indeed I did.” I didn’t feel the need to elaborate. “And now I’m going to sleep for several hours before we decide what to do next.” I finished eating between words and stood to keep my promise to my pillow but Miranda popped out of her room just as I drained the last of my coffee. My shoulders slumped. The look on her face told me I’d be breaking that promise.