Seven years prior...
Roland stood at the docking bay of the Citadel, having just stepped off the transport that he had commissioned from Bekenstein, carrying only a duffel bag full of his clothing, a bag of treats, and a chain leash. The goodbyes were brief, unsurprisingly. Most of the team had been through hell after all, and keeping with the general Nova way of handling things, they had all kept quiet. The people that they had lost... didn't lighten the burden of that day either. He had been the last to leave the planet, having stayed for a few days extra to see everyone else off, deciding it was his duty as one of the founders to do so.
"Huuuuh, what to do, what to do, eh pup?" The varren sitting next to him barked. The sentinel began tapping his foot nervously as he grasped his face to block everything else and concentrate. He was on the Citadel instead of Earth, where most of his family was, because he didn't have a place to go on Earth with most of his relatives estranged and caring not for his well-being and his grandmother sitting idly in a retirement home on Earth. He wasn't sure what to do about employment, but for the moment he would survive; unlike some on his team he had learned to invest some of his money when a time came where he would quit the mercenary business. He didn't quite expect to use that nest egg so soon though. He began walking with the fish-dog, aimlessly as it were, seeing as he didn't have much of a place to go. He figured a hotel that allowed pets to be the best place to stay, at least until he was able to find stable employment.
Two weeks later...
Roland left his lodgings, having found possibly the slummiest hotel to stay in on the Citadel that would allow varren, but still being in better condition than most middle class homes. He was heading for the part-time job that he had picked up on a cafe in the Zakera Ward. The work was boring -- nothing was more exciting than almost having your head blown off on a day-to-day basis it seemed -- but it was helping stipulate the money he already had in the bank. Unfortunately, it was only a temporary position, filling in for one of the waiters that is, and it still wasn't enough to support him fully. Sighing in resignation, he trudged along.
Well, it had been fun while it had lasted. The job he had had that morning? Gone in an instant of unprecedented clumsiness with hot coffee and jam. He had been distracted all day with thoughts of how hopeless his situation was, but to let them get the better of him was just plain stupid of him. He entered the lobby, hearing the tacky music of the elevator as it's doors opened on the floor. He didn't really care for it. He continued, a slouch noticeable by the arch in his back, only to be stopped by the force of a flung datapad to his face.
"So there you are my idiot grandson." The voice, which was leaving the surprised young man griping in his shoes, belonged to a woman whose faded brown hair was in a tight bun, and whose face showed only the tiniest of wrinkles. "It's about time, mister, that we have a little chat." The woman stood in front of him expectantly, tapping her foot as Roland showed no sign of answering her. He decided to bust out the cheerful. "Grandma! It's been so long since we've seen each other! And you don't even look a day over ninety yet." A clean right punch to his jaw. "That's because I'm only eighty-seven you jackass." He circled his mandible to message the pain while gripping the hit side with his hand. "Right, of course; so what was it that you were here for?"
"I'm here to speak to you about your job and the years of lies you have been telling me."
"Well I quit."
"I don't care about that! Do you know how worried I was when I learned that you had been putting yourself in the line of fire without my knowledge?! It's not that I would have even cared that much if you had told me dear, your life is yours to do with what you want, but it would have been nice to know that my only daughter's surviving son was could die at any given moment, when I thought he was simply sitting behind some desk!" His grandmother, as strong as she was, was on the verge of tears with her words. They were certainly having an effect on Roland.
"Look, you're right, I'll be the first to admit that, but I just didn't want you to worry about me. After- after the trial about mom, ohh, god." He didn't want to discuss this. It was just opening up old wounds which had healed themselves years ago. "Look, I'm done working as a mercenary, honest, and I'm trying to start a, well, honest living, but I'm just not sure where to start..." A smile small came across his grandmother's lips. "Fine, but how do you feel about this old buzzard taking you out for a good meal? This has been my first time off that God forsaken rock and I want to try some authentic alien cuisine."
"So, I've been dying to ask, how did you find me? I haven't told a soul I was staying there." The two of them had walked to a little place specializing in asari food that Roland could personally recommend from his time with Nova. It had been a walk filled with small talk and other things of little importance, but he figured now that they were sitting down and with their orders already placed, it was time to get down some more serious matters. The first of which, was the one thing that had been nagging him since his grandmother had made her presence known and what he had hopped for wasn't true. "A nice woman knocked on my door and told me, she seemed pleasant enough. She had also been the one that had distracted me from our last chat two weeks ago. Although, something did seem fishy when I couldn't get my computer working again after her little visit." Roland had been past the point of simply clutching his head in despair. "Let me guess, she had brown hair in a ponytail, pretty enough features, and not a lot of makeup?" She wasn't surprised by his guess. "Yeah, a friend of yours?"
"...You are no where even close in your assumption."
Their food came shortly after that. It was two of the same dish, simply because Roland liked it and his grandmother just didn't know what was good on such a foreign menu. For a brief minute, she thought that the small blue tentacles on her plate was from the back of someone's head. That was before Roland explained it was something like seafood. They were halfway through their rather quiet meal when his grandmother hit him with a poignant question. "Why not become a doctor?" Roland slurped another piece of food, looking at her shocked. "Excuse me?"
"You heard what I said."
"Yes, but I'm curious as to where that line of thinking came from."
"Well, you did say that you were a doctor for all those years, which you weren't, so why not rectify that now?"
"Hm, well, I never thought about that... I guess I would have to go back to school though."
"Hell, I guess I'll pay for that then."
"No, no, no. I'll pay for something like that myself."
"Roland, sweetie, it's fine. Right now I'm sitting on a pile of life insurance money left to me from when your grandfather died. And with me just diddling away my time in a retirement home, I in no way need it. But if you really feel that bad about taking the money from me, I won't say no to you paying me back."
"I guess... well, it seems as though I'm going back to college, or whatever they call it here." His grandmother burst out in laughter. "I guess a toast is in order for your new life's direction," she raised her glass. "Cheers!" Roland clinked his against hers, "Cheers then!... And do you think we could get a doggy-bag after we're done?"
Three years later...
While he wasn't the tidiest of people, Roland had never really known what a true mess could look like until now. Following through with his grandmother's wishes, he had enrolled at the local (that is, local in the sense of being on the same station) university's medical school and was able to get an apartment close by by boarding with a salarian who was there for pretty much the same reason he was, and didn't care that he was bringing an animal with him. Except, this roommate was only nine years of age, and taking more courses than there were hours in a day on Earth, so it seemed that he knew very little of the definition of "clean". Because of his roommate's filth, and the creature that insisted on sprawling out in the tightly jammed apartment, Roland was quickly finding himself late for the second time that week. "Finally..." He was admittedly ready to give up and go without his shoes, the Citadel was unprecedentedly clean of debris for sure, but knew that it would certainly look untoward to do something such as that. He rushed out the door, making sure it was locked, and bounded quickly down the pathway.
School there... had long since started taking their toll on him. With his classes scheduled only hours apart from each other, which was hardly enough for the eight hours he was accustomed to, and the seemingly endless assignments that were placed on him, he had began to eat whatever was available as well as ingesting copious amounts of coffee each day. Luckily, one of his professors had cancelled his next class, and he was going to capitalize on it. "Earth-clan! *psh*" It was the volus that he was in his class calling for his attention. "Some of the guys were *psh* going out for some drinks and, *psh* I was wondering if you would care to join. *psh*" We smiled and waved him off. "Sorry, Tel-Darr, going to catch up on some of my own biological imperatives, and a little rascal to take care of at home, so I really can't." The little man chuckled. "No harm, no foul Earth-clan.*sph*" Roland left after the jovial group, disheartened that he truly couldn't afford to go with them. His time studying was turning into a depressing ride through the nostalgic time of his youth, where he spent more of his time reading books about space and adventure than socializing with his peers. Luckily for him, he was only a year away from completing the courses he wished to complete.
Two years later...
"Roland...? Roland!" The voice was loud, and feminine. He drew his attention back toward the woman across from him. He had been caught day-dreaming again, except this time it had been with a date, and he's pretty sure that she thought he was staring blankly at an asari's ass. "I think we're both done here." She was noticeably pissed with him as she stormed from the restaurant, leaving him with the bill. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately for him, they hadn't made it past the appetizer. He threw his own napkin on the table before slumping over. "Would you like the check, sir?" It was the waiter. "Yeah, why not?" He didn't lift his head.
Well, that could have gone over better. He was walking home alone, again, for the fourth time that month. It really was becoming a habit of his to screw up when talking to girls, whether it was because of some slip of the tongue or incidents like the one at the restaurant. It was also becoming a bit of a double whammy, he had hospital work to early tomorrow and he had decided to stay up late for the romantic, after-hours Presidium feel for the date, as well as putting a relatively large hole in his wallet... for just the appetizers.
The doctor was ambling along again, lost in thought and slightly missing the life that he had left. "Oh, I'm sorry si-" Roland had bumped into someone, yet it was them who apologized. He looked down at the person. "Albert!?" His jaw was hanging as was his friend's. "Roland?! My God, I never would have guessed you were here!"
"Neither would I! Then again, I thought you had died after not seeing you on Bekenstein after the dissolution of Nova."
"Right- well, it was nice seeing you again; I'd best be leaving."
"Hold on! You can't leave! We should go out and get some coffee and catch up or something."
"...Sure, I guess I have a few moments to spare."
"So, why the reluctance to talk?" After getting to the small cafe the two of them just sat there quietly, cups in hand, with Roland staring at him curiously as his fellow avoided his gaze. "It's just... I- I hid when that 'event' happened on the Tyrus. I hid when everyone else was being gunned down protecting that ship with their lives. I hid so goddamn well that they didn't find me until they started dismantling the ship and had to lock me up for a few weeks before deeming me as 'less than a threat' and letting me go. I'm a goddamn coward." The former chef was ready to cry in his cup. "Shit, that's all." It didn't seem that big a deal to the sentinel, he was just glad his friend was alive. "'That's all'?! That's all you have to say, you motherfucker? I was practically committing mutiny on your ship and all you have to say is, 'That's all'?! Who the hell are you to say 'That's all'?!!" Albert's words were seething with anger, and for a large part, Roland was unimpressed. "No offense, but I know you are certainly no good in a fight. For a fact, I know that I was bound on you know who's ship and left to wonder if my friends were alive or fucking dead. Hell, one of the most capable fighters on our squad knew it was pointless to keep on fighting and abandoned the ship, and it was within his every right to do so. I don't blame you for anything, you are still my friend, even if you did what you had to to survive."
Albert, after all that, wanted to drink. Heavily. And he did, even if his friend didn't want to join him. After an hour -- or had it been two? -- of drinking, Roland took charge of lugging his slurring friend back to his own place seeing as how the drunk wasn't coherent enough to say his own name, let alone an address. He came to his apartment, thankfully a different one than from his college days, and after coming through the front door, threw his friend on the couch and over the slobbering varren that refused to move out of the way. "Bringing home gentleman now, are we?" The lights flicked on in his kitchen without warning, only to reveal his grandmother, who yet again had shown up on her own initiative. "Oh, it's you. And no, this is a friend from... work. Yeah, a friend from work. What are you doing here anyways, and how did you get into my apartment?" She chuckled lightly and played with the red liquid in the wine glass before taking a sip. "What, I was in the neighborhood and decided I wanted to visit my favorite grandson. Is that so much of a crime." He looked at her pointedly. "Oh, and I just asked your landlord to let me in, claiming that I lived you and forgot to bring my key."
"Great, so I figure this means you're spending the night?"
"Night?! It's morning now back in America!" Roland took this as a sign to make himself coffee. "Yet you're drinking."
"You say something, dear?"
"Oh, nothing; just go back to sipping your wine."
"Wake up you twit!" Following his shout came a slap on the forehead, and the excited noises of a near canine beast. Roland had to leave in an hour, and he didn't want Albert, who was now unwittingly caught in Roland's web of lies, alone with his mischievous grandmother. "I'm leaving soon and it would likely be best for you to do so too." His grandmother couldn't help but chirp in. "Oh, let him sleep dear, I'd like to talk to your receptionist friend a little before he leaves. My name is Rosa by the way."
"I'll explain later, just get up so we can go!"
"What was that?" Roland then began to drag his still dazed friend to his feet and through the door. "It was nothing, go to sleep and I'll see you in a few hours and make sure to take the fish-dog out too before you do so!"
"Soooo, receptionist? What the hell is that all about?" The two had well left sight of the apartment before Albert popped up, seeing that Roland wanted to keep something secret. They continued walking as they talked. "Right, well my grandmother back there didn't like when she found out about my choice of career five years ago, so I'm pretty sure she wouldn't appreciate my bringing home of a friend from back then. Eventually when she started prying, I created a story about how I planned to open my own clinic and planned to hire you for the front desk... In hindsight, I'm starting to realize this was an even worse idea, seeing as how it was the lies that she was originally troubled with, which I obviously just did again, and I didn't even realize that you probably already have a job-"
"I don't, actually."
"I don't have a job you idiot."
"So what you're saying is... what, exactly?"
"So what I'm saying is if you want to go through with opening this clinic of yours and hire me as the receptionist, all so you are no longer lying to your grandmother, then it's fine by me."
"Hm, well, thank you... I guess?"
Two years even later...
"Ahh, many of my thanks Doc." The voice that came from the enviro-suit's speaker, was feminine, and one that Roland had become accustomed to hearing. "It's no problem, Zipi. You're always good with paying, so I'll let this case slide." Zipi'Alita nar Neda, she was a quirky, energetic quarian on the Citadel to complete her Pilgrimage, and a frequent customer of Roland's. She was studying ways that the Migrant Fleet could produce various equipment and tools more efficiently, and therefore was working construction to both earn and make a living away from home. It was also a job where punctures were unnecessarily common, and infections ran rampant on her body, hence being a frequent attender to the good doctor's office.
"Just be sure to yell at Tzvi for me the next time you talk; it's been just about ages since I was able to get in contact with her." Roland was packing up his kit of antibiotics as the quarian was exiting out of the door. "Sure thing, Doc. I'll be seeing you later." The girl waved her goodbye as Roland put the kit on one of the shelves in his office. The place was neat and in order, just the way he liked it. With nothing to do in the back, he proceeded to the front, deciding it best to pester his friend instead of wallow in boredom.
The man was found slumped on the front desk, fast asleep, with his obnoxious snoring permeating through the room. "Hey! Lackey, wake up." His face shot up, a little drivel falling from the corner of his mouth. "Huh- wha?" Roland propped himself up on the desk and proceeded to lecture. "You know, if you were doing your job to it's fullest capacity, you would know that we have no more patients scheduled for today. So go home if you're going to make my business look like a sham."
"Do I still get paid?"
"Of course not!"
"Then I can't; it costs an arm, a leg, and half my torso to live here and unlike you, I don't have my grandmother for support."
"Ha, as if it's my choice to have her; she sponges off of me as a form of repayment for sending me back to school. She actually pays very little." A moment of silence passed between them as Albert began to drift back to his slumber. "So, why so tired? I know you're not the type to stay out late when you have to work." Albert sat up fully and began to stretch, knowing all too well that his boss didn't intend to leave him alone. "The damn keepers-" he yawned "-came in and started to rearrange everything in my building. Talk about a hassle." Roland chuckled at his misfortune. "I guess I should consider myself lucky, that's only happened to me a grand total of thr-"
The door to the clinic opened. Albert addressed the woman who came in. "Welcome to the Nova Care clinic, mademoiselle. How ca-" She interrupted, whipping off her unnecessary, large framed sunglasses. "Nova Care? MY, aren't. We. Just. original? Couldn't you have come up with something more original, like, 'Replacement Care' or, 'No-Longer-Doing-What-I-Love Care'?" She chuckled, before narrowing her gaze at the unwanted one. "You, leave. I have business to discuss with your boss." Albert felt insulted, the name had been his idea. "Hey, lady, what the hell's your proble-" Roland punched him in the side of the head. "Albert, it'd be best you leave if you value your job." His stern eyes didn't leave Perry's mocking gaze. Albert, sensing more tension and and background between the two than he cared to know about, simply got up and left, but not before scoffing a few curses at the woman under his breath.
"Now that he's gone, what exactly is it that you want?" Persephone snickered, "Now that he's gone, I'm going to drop my bullshit 'holier-art-thou' attitude and get down to my job. You see," she began to walk around the small waiting room, "Mr. Broker is calling in his favor if you don't mind, and of course you wouldn't, otherwise you know what will happen," she unceremoniously ran her finger across his neck, "Slice." Roland stared at her undaunted by her words and movements. "Anyway, you'll be infiltrating a certain Spectre's team of specialists. Mr. Broker would like information on what this 'Saren Arterius' is up to, and you're obviously going to be there to find out. It's already been set-up by a mutual, turian friend of ours for you to show up for the job. He's at least good for that... among other things. A datapad should be at your place now with the rest of the info you'll need. It's password protected so you know, wouldn't want any wonderful ladies, or should I say grandmothers, knowing what you'll be up to. It's the date in which Nova was dispersed. Any questions?"
Roland sat for a moment, silent. "Yeah, I'm obviously not going in alone for something so risky, so who else is going?" Perry's grin widened. "Always the perceptive one, at least when not in a bar setting. I was supposed to add as an additional incentive that some of your old team will also be going along... including your wifey."
"Wifey? You mean Tanya."
"Yes, and you two were married. What, did you not think we had a licensed minister on that yacht of desire?"
"Oh, lighten up! You're being stiffer than a board; speaking of stiff, how about a drink? It'll be like old times."
"Sorry, gave that up a long time ago. About seven years ago to be exact. Could you think of any reason as to why I would do that?"
"Oh, shit, you thing I'm going to drug you again? That was just business, this is purely for fun. Maybe, if you loosen me up enough, I can take you back to my place..." She rolled her finger seductively down his chest, and by extension his tacky sweater-vest. "Sorry, nuh-uh, nooohohoho thank you. Even if I could get past the date-rape drug from our first encounter, I wouldn't do something like that now." A small frown. "I see..." She proceeded out the door but stopped at the frame. "Well, I guess I should leave now. Say hello to Rosa for me, I haven't been able to visit in the past month."
"Wait, you've been in my ho-" The door closed before he could finish his sentence. He was beginning to wonder if he should start drinking again, or how he was going to explain his absence to Albert, his patients and worst of all, his grandmother. And who was going to take care of his dog anyway?