Takes places (largely) during the ME 2 endgame fight.
Among all species in the galaxy, it is a common enough believe: In the moment of your death, all your life will flash before your inner eye.
For her part, Morinth has always entertained the thought that her lovers were too caught up in the pleasure-pain of how they were dying, too lost even to process such memories. It has always seemed an odd thing to her, this idea. What use would it be? Knowing like that everything you are about to lose, reviewing all the dreams you will never live?
But now the ground shudders beneath her and she can feel her balance shatter as the platform suddenly dips to the side and her feet lose touch with it. Instinctively, her biotics flare up, but she is too drained to do much more than reconnect herself to the ground and it has become slippery. She falls, slides and slithers as pieces of the dead Reaper rain all around her. Frantically, her fingers scrabble for purchase on the smooth surface, but she finds none — already knows she won't, she knows the scent and the rhythm of death.
For a moment, one foot touches something hard and she slows done, and this more than anything else, makes her heart hitch and the breath catch in her throat. She is not afraid of dying, but the thought of living, now that is the true desire.
Shepard calls her mother's name and she fails to comprehend. Later, so much later, when she finds she is still alive, she can marvel at how he could have kept his head like that, keeping the act in place to the very end. Shepard, she learns, never plays to a lost cause.
He dives after her and the edge comes up to meet them.
The examination room was warmly coloured, comfortably lit, but Morinth still felt cold in her thin robe. She sat on the edge of the bed, skinny legs dangling down, still moving back and forth as if caught in an unseen breeze. She felt fine that day, perfectly healthy and ready to take on the universe. A maiden now, everything around her seemed to shimmer and jingle invitingly. Hers for the taking, now.
And something was wrong. She didn't understand it right then. The doctor's voice drifted to her from across the room, a low, inaudible croon. She could read her mother's stance well enough however, had seen it often enough. Samara had gone still, stiff like a statue in her regal, imposing beauty and her large eyes were wide and secretive.
Morinth barely remembered the conversation she had had with her later, still in the same lovely room. What she did remember was how her own mother had been incapable to even take her into her arms when she told her how her life was over before it had even began.
Shepard's hand snaps closed around her wrist, hard enough to crush the hardsuit around her and Morinth feels her bones give way with the force. She feels the pain shoot up her arm, spiking into her head and driving down her spine. She dips over the edge and her body smashes against the platform when Shepard manages to break her fall.
She stares up at his face, tries to read in it. A shard has left a cut across his forehead and blood runs down the side of his face. It looks rather like warpaint to match the bared teeth and the bright, brilliant feral glow of his eyes. If she is to die, if she shall walk the Abyss with all her sins, she shall take this image with her gladly.
She played Dhaijama with her sisters every afternoon, with the sunlight streaming through the wide window, shifting the air into golden sparkles. Outside the house, a lush valley stretched into the distance. It was peaceful here, quiet. One of the few remote spot remaining on Thessia. There was a monastery in the next valley, but of course none of them would ever go there.
Weeks pass, then months, then years. It had become difficult to keep track of the passage of time. The Extranet offered little distraction when everything it showed, everything it told her had no more substance than a fairy tale image seen through a mirror. She could reach out and touch the surface, but she could never step through.
After a while, none of her sisters were able to beat her any longer. Morinth stopped playing after that.
Shepard mutters a smattering of curses, tightens his hold and for a moment everything seems to go still, life and time hanging in balance and then Shepard jerks his arm, pulls her up and tosses her back on the ground. Morinth flounders, helplessly. Across from her, she sees Garrus flay his arms in a desperate attempt to stay on his own feet. She tries to breath, to steady herself, but the platform suddenly reverses its spin, turns and falls the other way.
She had prepared for this moment for a long time. Samara comes to visit regularly, wrapped in duty and dignity, it was so disgusting that Morinth could barely suppress the retching. No words of consolation, not a hint of pity or mercy. Samara felt no compassion and because of that, neither would Morinth.
Walking out of her own bedroom in her mother's clothes was the hardest thing she had ever done. She felt naked, exposed, as transparent as the glass against the brilliant sunlight.
Her sisters never saw, Samara's bodyguards didn't become suspicious until they were well away from the house in the valley and by then, Morinth already had a gun to their heads.
She has fallen again, doesn't get up again, simply clings to the spinning, dancing platform as it tries to shake her off. She can see the blue of Garrus' hardsuit from the corner of her eye, shaking like leaves in the storm, blurring the colour. She has no idea how far down it is, but she thinks she will find out soon enough. Pieces of metal begin raining around her, screeching in her head as they collide with the platform.
She falls, again, and pain explodes against her head. She clings to consciousness for a long moment, watching as her vision dips sideways and washes out. Then, there is only darkness.
She lost her virginity to a krogan merc. In later years, she might have scoffed at him, but then the raw strength of this imposing creature attracted her without any hope of resisting. She picked him out and intended to take him home, to the small hotel room she had rented with stolen money, but they never got there. She lured him, in the taxi, drove him past self-control and the car lurched to the side before the auto-controls took over.
The krogan is huge and rough, but her asari body adapts and among the two of them, she is the greater beast.
It's like falling and flying at the same time. Like walking in a storm of lightning, hand in hand with death. The power is overwhelming, pure bliss of her lover's incomprehensible pain and above all else, the absoluteness of her own freedom.
She hurts. Maybe pain is good, because it means she is still alive. Maybe, however, it only means she is dying slower than she had hoped in payback of all the suffering she has inflicted.
There is pressure across her torso, making it hard to breath and dulling the beat of her struggling hard.
Daring the pain, she moves or tries to and there it is, white hot and crushing racing through her veins. But a moment later, the pressure vanishes suddenly, leaving a different, dull, throbbing behind.
A hand is placed on her shoulder, hard enough to steady her against the onslaught, anchoring her on this side of consciousness.
"Morinth," Shepard says.
It's not her name, after all, not originally, but from him, it sounds like it must be. She opens her eyes in time to see a quick, savage grin cross Shepard's face. He straightens, dragging her to her feet with him, heedless of whatever wounds she has sustained. There is no time now. He holds her for a moment, until she regains a semblance of steadiness, then lets go of her.
A few feet away, Garrus is struggling to his feet and Morinth thinks he looks just as battered as she feels.
Shepard turns, looks them both over, then nods.
"We need to get outta here," he says. He doesn't ask them if they can make it, because in the end, it makes no difference.
She was demon, taking life and giving death at will and fancy.
She was a goddess, presiding over her subjects and revelling in the glory of it.
She could have stayed in this place for all eternity and would never have tired of it. For the first time, she had everything she wanted and everything she deserved. She is above everyone else in the galaxy, beautiful and terrible and she is accorded all the respect and awe it entailed.
They brought her sacrifices and watched in adoration as she devoured them and trembled when she rejected them.
Life, she often thought, was meant to be like this.
Shepard hangs back, she can tell. Less hurt then either of them, it would be easy for him to outpace them. He isn't the man for heroic sacrifices, Morinth knows, has seen the will to live burn brighter than anything else in his mind, but there is something else at play her. He hangs back, a distraction to their pursuers, simply because he is the most skilled and that gives them all the best odds.
The collector base seems to fight them, jumbling the platforms around, making every step treacherous and there is no time to be careful. The collectors press them hard and she hears Shepard cursing as he runs out of thermal clips. Garrus whirls, barks Shepard's name and tosses him his shotgun when Shepard reacts.
She can see the escape, can see the opening even if the red light makes it look like the gate of hell.
The Normandy appears, dreamt of, prophesied, in a moment destined be told and retold in the millennia to come. She leaps, blinds, with all the strength she can still muster, biotics flare to hold her across the distance. Only a step behind her Garrus does the same, but the platform has been falling away under him and he is falling behind, jumped too short.
Instinctively, Morinth reaches for him, knows she lacks the strength and does it anyway. She pulls them both up on the landing behind Joker.
She feels like fainting, but it is not yet time.
Shepard could never make it, the gap is too wide now. The Normandy shudders sideways, carefully, and Morinth knows the ship cannot get any closer like this at all.
There is no hesitation in Shepard, anger perhaps, tinged with desperation but no hint of fear.
He manages to grip the edge with his fingertips, holds himself against the ship as she begins to draw away.
Morinth lunges forward, reaches for Shepard with both her hands and the pain suddenly washes over her with nauseating force. He has broken her wrist earlier, a wound forgotten and dulled with the rush of adrenaline and survival instinct.
"Serves you right," she growls, but pulls him up anyway. She falls back against the closed door behind her, halfway crushing herself under his weight. Shepard goes limp against her for less than a second, strength bled, his head resting against her shoulder.
Despite everything, she thinks she likes him there.
He squares his shoulders and moves away.
"We aren't out of it yet," he says.
"Just you wait," Joker grins.
Omega was like an old whore. Sagging and decrepit, jaded beyond imagining with everything she has seen and done. But she promises the impossible and you believed her because you could see she knew what she is talking about.
Coming to Omega feels like visiting an old friend. Not someone you liked, particularly, but someone you knew appreciated the tales you brought, someone who had moved beyond disgust a long time ago.
There is a certain symmetry in that it should be Omega that delivered her to her destiny.
Shepard sits on the empty bed beside her. Med-bay is quiet around them and he pitches his voice low.
"If you tell Chakwas about you, she'll keep it secret," he says. "You were hurt bad, she'd probably figure it out anyway."
"You broke my wrist," she says.
"Do you mind?" he asks, arching his brows.
"Not so much, no."
Before this, Shepard had told her they were walking into almost certain death. And now, still alive against all odds, she realises that she had made her peace with it. She would have taken death in this way, she could have accepted it.
She looks at Shepard. Maybe it's the light, she thinks, but Shepard seems older now than he did a day ago.
"You should have kept the base," she says. "You destroyed the Collectors, what's to stop you from destroying Cerberus?"
He shakes his head, slowly. "The Reapers want us to use their tech. That's what fucked over the protheans and whatever civilisations came before. Maybe we could have used the base, yeah, or it would have turned us all into husks. Not a risk I'm willing to take."
She relaxes back into the bed. It's soft underneath her. She has never understood the fascination with safety, but in this moment, she at least isn't bothered by it.
"What happens now?"
He gets up from the bed, turns to go. "We've won two battles," he shrugs. "But the war was still on."
Shepard was like a vision. In the end, she could do nothing but fall at his feet.