23. Last kiss
"This is the last time I’m going to tell you, Nyreen. You may have certain…privileges in my bed, but that does not give you the right to countermand my decisions." Aria’s voice was even and her gaze was steady, but the guards around her were shifting uncomfortably. They knew the dangerous set of the asari queen’s jaw. They knew she could be on the verge of an explosion.
Nyreen, evidently, had not yet learned to read the minutiae of her lover’s moods — or perhaps she had, and simply didn’t care. The turian woman’s eyes flashed hard. “Many innocents were going to die if that gang was left unchecked,” she said sharply. “I simply delivered a reminder that they would have to watch their step and avoid collateral damage.”
"And in doing that, you undermined my authority," Aria snapped. "And I won’t take that, even from you, Nyreen. We’re not your precious military here." She sneered, her lip curling disdainfully. "And you know that perfectly well, even as you try to change me. What sort of soldier keeps fighting such a losing battle?”
Nyreen was silent for a long moment, her mandibles flaring with agitation. Some decision she had been gnawing at for the better part of a week was finally coming to a head. “Not me. Not anymore. I’m leaving.”
She would, later on, be able to take some comfort in the fact that she had been one of the few people in nearly a thousand years to shock Aria T’Loak. The silence between them was startled and absolute. In any other person, the expression on the queen’s face might have been called dismay. But Aria was not so easily emotionally bewildered. No doubt it was simply surprise, nothing more.
"Really," she said quietly, rising from her couch with an easy, taut grace that hid any possible emotional weakness. "Well, that’s a shame…for you." She caught Nyreen’s face in one hand, traced her fingers along one of her mandibles, along the sensitive skin that always made her lover tremble. Then she kissed her, a deep, hard blow of a kiss that delivered messages never spoken aloud. And Nyreen felt a shudder pass all through her with the warmth of the queen’s lips, acutely aware it was the last time she would touch this woman who, for better or for worse, owned so much of what the ex-soldier had become.
Aria drew back, her expression unreadable, and turned away with a deliberate swing of her hips. “Goodbye, Nyreen. You’ll miss me.”