Chapter 1: First Visions
The first time almost kills her.
Jane is balanced on the edge of a twenty-foot cliff, knees bent in preparation to launch herself away from the overhang to the water below. Mid-jump, her vision telescopes. She blinks, and it’s no longer Mindoir she sees. She’s looking at an open field. Turians run across it holding sticks and chasing a ball. More turians are in front of her, cheering. The light is funny; everything seems overlaid with a cool grey filter. Her shoulder is jostled and her head turns to a young female turian. She says something, but Jane doesn’t understand. The turian’s head tilts forward, and she repeats herself, mandibles moving in an exaggerated manner. Jane’s head shakes and her hand—three fingered—pushes the turian away. Something niggles in the back of her head, something important. What...
A hard smack along the full length of her back jolts her out of it. Jane gasps, and inhales nothing but water. She coughs and only just stops herself from breathing in again. She twists toward the light and kicks desperately. Her reaching hand fails to break the surface. She needs air. Her lungs contract, needing oxygen, and she inhales again.
There’s no thought now, just pure survival instinct. She tries to keep moving up, towards air, towards life, but everything feels heavy and cold. The light fades, the water moving around her, and then she’s yanked above the surface. She hears muted noises and she dimly registers that she’s being held.
“C’mon, Jane. Mom’s already gonna kill me. You’d better survive so she can kill you too.” The words are distant, though there’s breath on her neck. Then there’s hands pulling her out of the water and turning her on her side. Water runs out of her ear, and she can hear properly again. She coughs weakly, then with more strength as her body realizes it has air again. Her back aches. Everything aches.
Jason holds on to her shoulder as one cough almost rolls her on to her face. “What happened?” he asks. “It was like you locked up halfway through the dive.”
Jane blinks up blearily at her brother. “Soul bond,” she manages, before retching up all the water she’d swallowed.
Her parents, when they’re told, are worried. They try to hide it, but she sees the look they exchange. Soul bonds are rare, soul bonds across species even rarer. It’s enough of a distraction that neither she nor Jason are scolded for the cliff diving.
“You’re welcome,” Jane says later, as they climb the steps to their rooms.
“For what, not drowning?” Jason rolls his eyes. “You’re welcome.” He stops in front of his door. “A turian, huh?”
Jane knows what he’s thinking. How’s she going to meet a turian on a backwater colony like theirs? She’s never thought about leaving. He’s the one with the big dreams. “The colony must do pretty well in the future,” she says. “If we get that kind of traffic.”
He doesn’t look convinced.
“I didn’t ask for this. I’m just as weirded out as you are.” Jane’s voice breaks a little at the end, and Jason shifts awkwardly.
“Sorry,” he says. “It’s just… a turian? I never knew you swung that way.”
She smacks him on the arm. “I don’t! You know it doesn’t have to mean that.”
“Says you.” Jason makes a kissy face at her and darts into his room before she can smack him again.
Jane glares at his door for a moment before going to her own room. Once inside, she flops on to her bed, then winces in regret. After the sting dies down, she rolls over and grabs her datapad from her desk. A few taps and she’s got the relevant notes from her galactic studies class pulled up.
“Soul bonds affect approximately one in ten thousand individuals,” she reads. “Cross-species soul bonds are one in a hundred.” She does the math in her head and snorts. Of all the ways to be one in a million. She keeps reading. “Soul bonds may be romantic or platonic. Romantic soul bonds are the majority within a species; the opposite is true for cross-species bonds. The bond is usually experienced with the onset of puberty—” Jane frowns at that. She’s had her period for a couple of years now. “—although in rare cases traumatic events may trigger the bond earlier.”
Well, that’s something, she supposes. Both of them have had normal childhoods.
“The frequency of the connection varies from bond to bond, but typically decreases or disappears altogether once the pair meet physically.” Well that’s just great. In other words, until they meet, she’s at risk for a repeat of today. Jane throws the datapad back on her desk and scowls at the ceiling.
“I hope you’re watching right now,” she says, and raises her hand in a rude gesture. “Jerk.”
* * *
The first time is a let-down.
Garrus recognizes the signs when his soul bond first sees the world through his eyes. It doesn’t last nearly as long as he expects, ending with a suddenness that sends a shock through his body. He worries that they’re okay and anxiously waits for his turn. He hopes they’re on Palaven too.
The green takes him by surprise. Not Palaven, is his first thought. It’s nice, wherever it is. There’s a cool breeze blowing that carries the scent of water. His eyes close and his head goes back to feel the heat of the system’s star. Someone calls and his eyes are open again, the view shifting as he answers. A human is standing in the middle of a field of crops, gesturing with something in its hands. Garrus nods, and comes down from the small rise to the machine at the edge of the field. He punches a few buttons, watches the screen for a moment, then punches a few more to adjust the output. The machine hums as its pump kicks into gear, sending water through the irrigation pipes. The wind shifts and some of the spray hits him in the face. He wipes it off with the back of his hand, the skin of his cheek smooth and warm.
Garrus looks out over the field again, his gaze feeling almost… defiant?
The vision fades, leaving confusion and disappointment. A human? A farmer? Garrus couldn’t imagine how such a person would fit into his life. Spirits, they can’t even eat together. He’s not about to change his plans for his future, and judging by that defiance at the end of the vision, the feeling is mutual. Just his luck.
At the match earlier, he’d waved off Solana because he didn’t want to share before he’d had his first vision. Now he’s glad for that decision. He can’t imagine having to reveal that his soul bond isn’t turian. It’s not supposed to matter, but he’s heard the comments. Hard to be sufficiently dedicated to the Hierarchy when your bonded is outside of it. Doubly hard when you were shooting at each other less than twenty years ago.
Garrus tells himself it doesn’t matter. They’re unlikely to meet before he finishes basic training, and that’s still a couple of years off. He’ll have time to prove himself in the meritocracy before anyone has to find out. He tries to envision that conversation, and fails.
At the moment there’s only one thing he can imagine, and the thought of it quickly solidifies into a resolution.
He can never let his dad find out.
Chapter 2: Fire in the Distance
Garrus fools himself into thinking the soul bond is something he can ignore.
The bond accelerates his understanding of her language. By the third vision he’s following along like a native, but nothing he learns changes his first impression. Farming is boring. He respects the profession, but it’s not for him and neither is a person who does it. It’s supposed to be impossible for a soul bond to be wrong, so he assumes that at some point in the future she’s going to get tired of it and pick up something a little more compatible.
Only the first time is quite so immersive. In subsequent visions he still feels and experiences everything she does, but he’s aware of himself as a separate person. It’s weird to feel an emotion as if it’s his, especially when his true feeling is the complete opposite. Like swimming. He’s been fully immersed once and almost had a panic attack. His bonded would live in the water if she could. Garrus wonders if she feels the same dissonance with his activities.
He doesn’t give up right away. The visions are regular, occurring about once every two weeks each way, and always around the same time of day. Once he catches on, he starts trying to show her how exciting spacefaring careers are. He doesn’t go out of his way to give her contact information the way most soul bonded do, but he does make sure he looks at himself in a mirror a few times so she can see his colony markings.
She doesn’t acknowledge any of it. If anything, his visions get even more bucolic. His bonded is determined to show him that she’s happy where she is and doesn’t care if she ever meets him. It stings. However much Garrus doesn’t understand why it’s her of all people, they’re still bonded. That’s supposed to mean something. He tries a few more times, but her rejection doesn’t budge. The hurt shifts to anger. If that’s what she wants, he’ll give it to her. He won’t care anymore. He’ll live his life and she can live hers.
Four months later he finds out just how wrong he is.
Garrus wakes in the dead of night. He barely orients himself before he’s with her.
It’s daytime. The sun is bright in the sky; it’s a beautiful day. She’s running just behind her brother, and it’s important that she not fall behind, but she can’t help but look back to their family pod. The warning sirens are wailing.
“Jane!” Jason snaps, and she realizes she’s slowed. Her heart is beating fast in her chest, too fast even for the dead run she’s been in. Garrus still isn’t used to the feel of sweat on her skin. Jason grabs her arm and pulls her along. “We can’t stop,” he says. “For Mom and Dad.”
Fear and worry. She wants to go back.
Jason changes their trajectory, aiming for the building that stores the harvesting machines. The doors are never locked during the day. There’s screaming now, close enough to be heard over the sirens.
Inside the warehouse is dim, the ceiling high above and the air degrees cooler than the sunlight. The harvesters loom over the two of them, the silhouettes dark and familiar. Jason leads them to the aisles in the back with high shelves and piles of tools and smaller machines waiting to be repaired. There’s a bit of space between a couple of overturned wheelbarrows, and he pushes her towards it.
“You’ll fit there. Don’t come out until I come get you.”
What? She starts back up out of the crouch she’d entered. “Mom said to stay together!”
Jason shoves her back down again. “I know what she said. But if we hide separately, they might not find us both.” His face is grim as he looks down at her. “I’m older. Dad put me in charge, so do what I say.”
She bats his hands away. “If you don’t have to, I don’t either. I’m not splitting up!”
Jason slaps her.
It’s shock, more than hurt, that renders her speechless. Garrus knows they don’t hit each other. Not like that.
Jason inhales sharply, and for a moment seems unsure. It passes, and his face hardens again. “For once in your life, can you just listen? There’s no—” he breaks off as the outside sounds suddenly get louder. He pushes her back again, crowding her with his body so she has no choice but to move. Jason’s lips are pulled so tight they’ve paled at the corners. “Stay,” he says. “No matter what.”
“No,” The words are just above a whisper as she reaches for him. “Jason, no.”
Jason slips out of her range. “I’m sorry,” he says, not quite meeting her eyes. And, “It’ll be okay. You’ve got someone out there.” Garrus feels her recoil at that. Jason ducks down as he peers back toward the entrance. And then he’s gone.
She sits frozen. Does she… no. She’ll only draw attention if she moves now. Jason will be all right. They’ll both be fine. She just needs to stay still and quiet.
There’s a crash, and a shout. Batarian. And then a human cry of pain. She can’t help it, she starts forward. She’s only halfway out when a batarian appears at the head of the aisle. It has a gun in its hands, and it shouts when it spots her. She swings her legs around and kicks at its knee. Its hardsuit absorbs the hit. It laughs as another batarian appears and grabs at her hair. The pain makes her eyes tear as they haul her out.
They drag her over to where they have Jason on his hands and knees. He shakes his head at the sight of her, over and over. The batarian holding her hair yanks her head up and motions up and down her body. The other batarians follow with their eyes, and her free arm goes across her torso, clothing suddenly feeling too thin. The batarian lets go of its grip on her hair and strokes down its length. She tries to shy away and the batarian digs its fingers into her arm to keep her in place.
Jason tenses, and mouths something at her when their eyes meet. Garrus doesn’t understand, but her body is already moving. She twists forward and then back as hard as she can. She feels something crunch as the back of her skull connects with the batarian’s face. The hand on her arm loosens and Jason is surging up from the ground, shouting for her to run. he has something sharp in his hand and then he’s on top of the center batarian and it’s making horrible gurgling noises.
The batarians are furious, all shouting at once. She gets no more than a step before she’s hit with a jolt of electricity. Her whole body convulses, and she pitches forward. She lands half on her side, facing Jason and the batarians, and she can’t look away from what happens next. Jason is on his feet, whatever’s in his hand dripping blood. He lunges at the nearest batarian.
It raises its gun and shoots him straight in the chest.
The bond fractures.
Garrus is there and he isn’t. He feels his bed under him, but he can’t help but still see. The way the dark red stain spreads over Jason’s chest. The pool that slowly seeps from behind his back. He can’t help but hear her pleas for Jason to get up as they start to drag her away. The raw grief as she begs the batarians to let her go, she has to help him, he’s her brother, they can’t leave him there.
He feels his mouth move with hers as she dissolves into nothing but denials.
He comes up out of bed in a rush, knocking aside the person shaking him. His sister falls to the floor, where she stares at him in outrage. He stares back, unable to quite grasp that he’s back in his room.
“What is wrong with you?” Solana asks.
Nothing. Nothing is wrong with him.
Garrus puts his head in his hands. What can he say? He can’t help her. Millions of light years separate them and he can’t even try to alert someone. He has no idea what system she’s in. He didn’t want to know, and he’s found out, in the most brutal way possible, that the bond doesn’t give a damn. It doesn’t matter if he cares. She’s part of him whether he wants it or not. His bonded is terrified and hurt and he knows, he knows, that if she dies like this he’s never going to stop feeling it.
“Nightmare,” he says after the silence has gone on too long.
“Your eyes were wide open,” Solana points out, in the way only an annoying younger sister can. “It was scary.”
He can’t deal with her right now. He snaps at her until she huffs her way out, then sits in the dark, praying for another glimpse. For anything to tell him that his bonded isn’t captured. He’s supposed to feel it if she dies, but that’s not good enough. Those were batarian slave raiders. Being killed might be a mercy.
Garrus still awake when morning comes, still helpless. The only thing he knows for sure is that she’s alive. Not nearly enough. When he gets another vision he’ll figure out where she is and help her. Somehow. He won’t care about what other people will think about his bonded being human. He’s never going to let popular opinion sway him like that again. He’s never going to feel helpless like this again.