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Home Is Where Your Heart Is

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Think about it, Oberon. Andromeda is thousands of light years from the Milky Way. If you aren't satisfied with your new life there, it'll be impossible to turn back.

 

Alec Ryder used to get on his son's nerves more often than not. This specific kind of warning had a way of getting under his skin. He knew exactly what he was doing and didn't need his father's concern. Until the disaster on Habitat 7.

 

These words were perpetually echoing in his mind ever since. No matter how hard he tried to focus on his new responsibilities as a Pathfinder, they always ended up haunting him. He couldn't stop thinking that he was the only one responsible for his father's death, and that he only deserved to pay the consequences. Then everything started to feel like a downward spiral. His sister lapsed into coma, he and his crew had to make an emergency landing on Aya, and the entire galaxy – but more specifically the kett – was after him.

 

It was at times like these that he missed Earth and the Milky Way the most. He obviously knew that moving to Andromeda would have its downsides; he had already considered every possible aspect very carefully long before going into hypersleep or telling his father he'd come along. But he had never expected to be threatened with death by one of the local species and to lose another parent. Almost everything that reminded him of Earth had been ripped away from him, and he was hoping that his sister would eventually come out of her coma, whether it'd be thanks to a miracle or to Dr. Carlyle's professionalism.

 

He sat in front of the window and wistfully looked up at the stars. Since his new life had begun, it was the first time he actually took some rest and did not think about the Initiative. He found his thoughts returning to his family and all the times they went stargazing together. Back when he was just a child, he and his sister would randomly point at stars in the sky and say, Some day we'll be stars too. And their father would just roll his eyes and tell them that they were already named after actual, existing stars in the Sol system. Which made Ariel burst into tears every time.

 

Oberon managed a weak, nostalgic smile. He voluntarily looked away from the window, in order not to let his emotions get the better of him. He took a deep breath before deciding to leave his quarters. SAM had just told him he had new email. New problems with the kett, and other things that required his attention. Alright, no breaks for the Pathfinder, he thought to himself.

 

He wasn't really paying any attention to what surrounded him anymore, as all his attention was focused on a datapad. He suddenly felt himself bumping into something that seemed like a wall a first, until he lifted his head and realized it was Liam instead.

 

“… Yes, Pathfinder?”, the officer said teasingly, with a smirk on his face.

 

“Fuck. I'm sorry. Got a bit overwhelmed.” Oberon answered, covering his mouth with his hands, looking extremely embarrassed.

 

The crisis specialist took a look at his immediate superior before asking him, with concern in his voice, “You sure you holdin' up?”

 

The month before, Oberon had a long conversation with him about the situation they found themselves in when they arrived upon Andromeda. He was completely devastated back then and took advantage of this opportunity to unburden himself a little.

 

In retrospect, he could've talked to Cora about it, but it would've been a terrible idea all things considered. Oberon had feared her reaction, considering she initially was to be made Pathfinder instead of him, and reacted rather poorly when she found out Alec had chosen his son as his successor. There was no need to rub salt in the wound, which explains why he chose to vent to Liam instead. He was nervous at first, as he tended to open up too easily, which sometimes got him into trouble. But they got to know eachother during numerous missions, including the one on Habitat 7, and earned mutual trust quite easily. To Ryder's greatest surprise, everything had gone smoothly between the two and no harsh judgments had been made.

 

The Pathfinder finally brought himself to break the silence. “Not really”, he replied.

 

“Wanna talk about it?”

 

He hesitated for a while. The situation certainly had not improved since they last talked about it, and he did not want to bother anybody with his problems. Not even SAM, who was already accustomed to listening to him all day long. He wanted to make a good impression in front of his team, and did not want people to think that complaining was all he ever did. However, in front of him was standing one of the only people in Andromeda he could fully trust.

 

He wasn't sure if it was worth talking about or not. “I don't know. Maybe.”

 

***

 

Liam suggested to take their minds off things over a beer and a movie. Oberon wholeheartedly accepted the offer and they moved to the former's quarters. They nonchalantly sat on the sofa, while trying to decide what movie they could watch. Ryder did not really care, as he just wanted to have fun. They ended up choosing a century-old turian film about war and brotherhood, which was one of Liam's favorites. Judging from the description, the Pathfinder thought it was probably going to be cheesy, but it did not really matter to him.

 

Still, it did not take him long to state his opinion. “That's an... interesting movie”, he said, rather sarcastically.

 

“Shit, and I thought Vetra was being picky 'cos it's a turian thing. Seems like everyone hates the goddamn thing.”

 

Ryder grinned at the answer. “I think my sister would've liked it, though.”

 

“She knows what's good”, Liam said, instantly making Oberon burst out laughing. “Aight, I know I got bad taste in movies. Even Jaal told me it was weird. Like, Jaal's into weird shit himself. I dunno how to feel about that.”

 

“Guess you're a misunderstood genius. Or you really do have bad fucking taste.”

 

“Yeah, sure, why not.”

 

The Pathfinder took a sip while trying not to take his eyes off the screen, fascinated by what was happening there. He had never seen anything like that before. What he was watching was definitelystrange, but it was an excellent way to forget about the Initiative or his father's death. He was surprised he hadn't thought about it before, but told himself it was better late than never.

 

There was something special about watching an odd movie with someone else. Even though he wasn't entirely sure why turians shooting eachother was that interesting in his friend's eyes. Their tastes in movies were radically different. He didn't mind a few scenes of war, but having an entire movie revolve around that sounded a bit boring to him. The entire universe is at war, no need to see that in movies as well. He nonetheless appreciated the move, and did not really know how to show his gratitude. He supposed he'd have to invite Liam in return, but he also wanted to offer him something. Maybe another turian film he'd have found in Aya's market. Or maybe not.

 

Oberon had a hard time making gifts, especially for people he deeply cared about, because he was very insistent about finding the perfect present. As a matter of fact, he and Liam had become very close, and he even was considering the possibility of becoming more than his friend. The two years preceding his departure for Andromeda had been marked by numerous broken-heart stories, and he certainly needed some fresh air. He had never been with another man, and initially thought that such a thing was impossible, but SAM made him realize rather quickly that his feelings could not exactly be defined as platonic. It took him time, coming to terms with who he was, but he eventually accepted it. However, he did not know if it was wise to tell the truth about his true feelings or not. It was getting harder and harder trying to hide these anyway, and he knew that somebody would ultimately notice that something was up.

 

This time, Liam had definitely caught him zoning out. “Why you smiling?”, he asked, playfully.

 

Oberon had no idea what to answer. He quickly searched for an excuse, as he quite did not feel like talking about his sentiments yet. “Oh. It's just that I understand Vetra's point of view now.”

 

“Yeah, maybe there's some of that, but you just bit your lip. You know, like a liar.”

 

“... How the fuck do you know that?”

 

“C'mon, Ryder”, Liam laughed, “we've been knowing eachother for months now. That gave me plenty of time to notice that you do that when you're lying.”

 

Oberon blushed in response. He definitely wasn't going to talk about that, as he did not want to waste a good friendship. But he couldn't lie anyway, knowing Liam would sense it. The situation he found himself in had become very inconvenient and embarrassing, and he was praying for the crisis specialist to leave him alone with that.

 

Hopefully, he did not draw it out of him. “You gotta admit now. You like that movie.”

 

The Pathfinder chortled nervously and opened another beer. “But of course”, he scoffed.

 

Liam addressed him an amused smile. “Anyway, I see it was a good idea to get some beer.”

 

“Beer is always a good idea. Except when Peebee's there”, Oberon mocked.

 

“Man, I can't even imagine. She's already weird enough when sober”, Liam said, jokingly. “Seriously though, I'm glad we can spend moments like these. Reminds me of all the good times I spent with the other HUS-T1 guys. Threw a lot of crazy parties back then.”

 

“Crazy parties, like...?” Ryder inquired, curious.

 

“You know,” the officer looked away before finishing his sentence, “like playing drinking games with shitty music playing in the background. Getting wasted as shit and falling asleep on the goddamn floor like two hours before going to work. 'Round 6AM.”

 

“Sounds classy.”

 

“'Course it does. I miss that kinda stuff. Andromeda's cool, but I sorta feel lonely there. Might be because we haven't been there for long.”

 

“I feel the same. It's... hard without my dad.” Oberon said, his voice cracking from weariness. “And I don't know if my sister is ever going to wake up.” He let out a deep sigh, trying not to let his emotions take over.

 

“Man, I'm sorry. I'd hate to be in your shoes.”

 

“It's alright. I mean, I didn't mean to spill my guts like that. Things have been hard for everyone lately. Shouldn't have said that.”

 

Liam gave Oberon's shoulder a gentle pat. “Don't worry about it. I'm here if you need to vent. May not have the best advice, but I got shitty movies and funny anecdotes. Seems to be working so far.”

 

Ryder flashed him a grin. “Thanks”, he whispered as he lazily slouched into the sofa.

 

***

 

It was getting late, and both were already inebriated. Oberon had just started drinking a fifth beer, and Liam was finishing his fourth, while telling the Pathfinder stories from his HUS-T1 years.

 

“And then that guy told me to break an egg. You know, like, on my head.”

 

“Oh, fuck, dude. Don't tell me you fucking did that.”

 

“Fuck no, man. Broke it on his head instead. You should've seen his face. And then we never talked to eachother again.”

 

They both laughed in unison. “These nights were fucking crazy. And then our boss would get so mad 'cos we were, like, all exhausted. Fuck, some of us even ended up with bruises all over.”

 

Oberon frowned. “You guys were so drunk you just ended up attacking eachother?”, he asked, unsure if he had understood correctly.

 

“I dunno why they were bruised, 'cos I never saw anyone get into fights. But I'd sometimes hear weird noises coming from the toilets. Guess they got frustrated, and fucked the shit out of eachother. Wasn't one of them, though.”

 

“You jealous?”, the Pathfinder couldn't help but ask.

 

Liam pouted, uncertain. “Man, I have no idea. All of us were men. Never done that kinda stuff with a dude. Guess I gotta try to be sure, but, you know, I rarely ever stumble upon good-looking guys. And even when I do, there's a fat chance they're taken, or don't care about me. Or both.”

 

Ryder found himself rethinking about his past issues with his identity. About those feelings he was constantly trying to hide, but sometimes couldn't. About what Liam would think of him if he ever got the courage to tell him. About how bad his past relationships had been, and how much he needed his friend's affection. How he potentially could be considered handsome enough. Or how he couldn't.

 

Once again, his frankness got the best of him. “Pardon my Martian, but they've got bad fucking taste if you're not their type.”

 

Liam's eyes widened, as if he could scarcely believe what he was just told. “Are you being honest right now?”, he asked, looking rather intrigued.

 

“I am”, Oberon replied, anxiously picking at the skin around his nails. “Have I ever lied to you before?”

 

“Well, yeah. When you said that you were smiling 'cos of that movie.”

 

The Pathfinder chuckled and gave him the middle finger. He was unsure whether to continue complimenting his friend, or stop there for the moment.

 

But Oberon was known for being brutally honest, and being drunk was definitely not helping. “I'm being serious, though. And it's... distracting sometimes.”

 

The crisis specialist provided an answer which seemed painfully oblivious to Ryder. “Dude, what is it you find distracting? Being serious?”

 

“I... no. I mean, that's kind of the opposite of distracting. What I meant is that...” He took a deep breath, then brought himself to finish his sentence. “... you're pretty much my type, you know.”

 

He hated himself so much for spilling the beans so quickly. His arrival on Andromeda had already turned out to be a terrible experience. And now that he said that, it could only get worse. He was expecting yet another disappointment. A drunken disappointment, which sounded even more humiliating. He started to imagine the worst possible scenarios, and prayed for his friend to either forget about what he just said, or to blame it on the alcohol.

 

Yet Liam's reaction surprised him. “Man, I think that's the best thing I've heard ever since, like, I woke up from hypersleep”, he said, as he ran his fingers through his hair and couldn't stop smiling. “Dunno if I can say the same thing about you, Ryder. But I kinda think you look good.”

 

Oberon flushed with embarrassment as soon as Liam finished his sentence. He did not expect such a positive answer, and first thought that it was a dream. Or a joke. He felt his heart racing in his chest, and couldn't decipher if it was from anxiety or from excitement. He looked away, trying to avoid eye contact. But he couldn't really concentrate on something else, considering what he had just been told, and knowing that what he had been dreaming of could become reality. He had been yearning for the other man's touch and affection for months, and was hoping he was sincere.

 

“You'd... better not say that just because you know I'm sad, man”, he said, feeling short of breath as he came closer to Liam.

 

“I'm saying that because you're part of these guys I find attractive and because for once I'm pretty sure we both have our chances.”

 

Ryder finally gave in to his temptations and made the first move, as he planted a furtive, yet sensual kiss to Liam's lips. The officer responded almost immediately, but more delicately, placing a hand on Oberon's neck. They continued for about a minute, not getting enough of the other in a fiery exchange, until the Pathfinder ran out of breath and had to stop. They grinned at eachother and chuckled, both looking extremely satisfied. Ryder thought to himself that he hadn't felt this good in years, and that it probably was one of the best things that ever happened to him.

 

Driven by lust, Oberon wrapped his arms around Liam's waist, pulling him closer and making him sit on his lap, which made him gasp in surprise. He slid his hands under the Pathfinder's shirt, tracing his fingers along his chest, making his skin quiver with approval and desire. Oberon gave a low chuckle, before placing a hand on Liam's warm cheek and pressing a wet, passionate kiss to his lips. The officer smiled and gently bit Ryder's lower lip, who couldn't help but moan with pleasure.

 

“You like that?”, Liam asked, almost provocative.

 

“Just... fuck me, already”, Oberon begged, his pulse beating steadily against the other man's palm.

 

“You're bold. I like it.”

 

***

 

Ryder opened his eyes in the middle of the night, finding himself completely undressed in a bed that wasn't his, with Liam serenely sleeping by his side. He let out a peaceful sigh, fondly remembering what had happened earlier that night. He brushed a hand against his lover's back, enjoying the softness of his skin, then realizing what this meant and feeling thankful for the tender moment they had shared.

 

He hadn't felt this happy in years, and thought that maybe Andromeda wasn't so bad after all.