This story vignette takes place between the events of Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 and is my take on the progression of the relationship between Liara and Shepard during this time.
All characters belong to Bioware, no infringement intended. In Flander's Field by John McCrae.
Comments welcome and appreciated, firstname.lastname@example.org
But today she was having none of it.
She was pacing, had been pacing, in front of the Commander's quarters for so long the human Alliance officers passing through the mess hall had stopped making jokes about her wearing a hole through the deck plating. They just expected her there. And it was more than just pacing. She was fidgeting too. Threads of feelings raced through her, assaulting at random, at once nervous, frustrated, giddy, fearful, uncertain… she was all together unsettled. Very uncharacteristic.
But her life since encountering the dynamic Commander Shepard three months earlier had been nothing if not uncharacteristic. Since joining the crew of the human Alliance ship Normandy and chasing the rouge Spectre Saren across the galaxy, nothing had been the same. Everything had changed. The discovery of the threat the galaxy now faced had changed everything but, if she stopped to consider it, that wasn't causing this upheaval inside her. No. It was simply the Commander herself.
Commander Jess Shepard, Alliance Navy N7 officer, hero of the Skyllian Blitz, and the first human Spectre ever named by the Counsel. An honor for a member of any species, being called Spectre gave the bearer the full weight and authority of the Counsel, the governing body over most of the known Galaxy. Humans, only capable of deep space travel a mere thirty five years, still did not hold a Counsel seat, but it was only a matter of time. Especially now. Especially after the events three days ago.
Liara paused in her orbit of the same five meter stretch of gray metal to rub her temples. Was it only three days ago? Another part of her screamed, It's been three days!
But it wasn't that fact that Commander Shepard was the first human Spectre, or that she had defeated Saren, or that she had touched and received visions from a real honest-to-goddess Prothean beacon, the one species Liara had devoted her life to studying, or even that she'd uncovered the plot of ancient beings called the Reapers that were coming to destroy every civilization in the galaxy. No, it was none of that causing the Commander to be the catalyst to this upheaval in Liara's world.
No. If she were to examine it, which she had hour upon hour the last three days, the very beginning of it was her eyes. Simply that. When a mercenary group of Geth and Krogan suddenly descended on her at the Prothean dig site on Therrum, she'd escaped, but in doing so snared herself in an ancient booby trap. She was suspended in a blue forcefield the first time she laid eyes on the Commander. That is when she learned of her own mother Benezia's involvement with Saren.
The Commander was able to release her from the forcefield and when they came face to face, Liara found herself held captive again, this time by a pair of enigmatic blue eyes. Eyes that at once relayed strength and confidence, cunning and command. But there was more there and the longer she looked the more she saw. It was unsettling to be both evaluated and communicated with in a glance. They had barely exchanged words when the mercenary attack began again. And with every reason not to trust her, the Commander had not hesitated. The trust had been decided in that first magnetic glance that passed between them and had not wavered in the months following.
Quite the opposite in fact.
The Commander's eyes had only been the beginning of what captured Liara's interest. In their conversations that followed she was taken in by the her obvious intelligence, strength of leadership, openness to ideas, keen interest in truth, her loyalty and care for her crew, unexpected compassion, her subtle crooked smile.
Liara sighed to herself, smiling unconsciously at the memory. Shepard's captivating cobalt eyes danced a little with mischief when she allowed that slanted smile to grace her lips. It took nothing away from the strength she projected, in fact, it only added to her dynamic nature. Like a sun in the blackness of space, it's presence infused everything around it with it's glow and warmth. At least to Liara it seemed that way. She'd never been so struck by another person. So immediately captivated.
But the truly remarkable thing was that Shepard had felt it too. And that tipped Liara's world on it's end.
The feelings, the immediate connection Liara had with the Commander, had made her consider a joining for the first time in her relatively young life. The Asari joining was much more than the human equivalent of sex. It was physical in the same way, but it was spiritual as well. A sharing of minds, a melding of beings. It was even the means by which Asari reproduced when they chose to, taking bits of genetic code from their partner, whether male or female, to create new life. The experience could be intense and, if there was real emotion behind it, life altering. She'd explained the essence of it to the Commander in the same way she understood it herself, without the benefit of first hand experience. But that knowledge could not have prepared her for the actual experience itself.
Her gaze shifted unconsciously to the closed door of the Commander's quarters. It was the eve of their confrontation with Saren and the sentient Reaper ship Sovereign. The battle was almost upon them and Liara couldn't stand the thought of diving into the dire battle without letting Shepard know… without sharing how she felt. Their first touch had been electric, the initial kiss explosive, and the joining beyond description. Joining Shepard's mind had been like stepping into a cool pool on a hot day. The temperature a shock to the system at first but then as you sink in, letting it envelope you, surround you, it becomes the most amazing relief. That is what it was like with Shepard. Like a balm to a wound she never knew existed. Like coming alive. The physical aspects had been overwhelming as well, like the flutter of her heart when their eyes had first met, magnified a thousand fold and spreading to every cell in her body. Life altering indeed. Liara ran a finger over her bottom lip absently, remembering.
They had arrived at Ilos that same night, hours later. They hadn't the time to discuss the future. They weren't sure there would be one given what they had to face. They didn't discuss what their new connection meant. If it was a one time event or something more.
After a hard fought battle, they had managed to defeat Saren and destroy Sovereign. For a few tenuous moments after Liara and Chief Williams were dug out of the rubble, they thought the Commander had been lost. In that moment, Liara had experienced a soul wrenching pain in her chest that robbed her of breath and in fact she thought her heart may have actually ceased to beat. But then the Commander was there, climbing over the rubble, injured but strong. And smiling. That crooked smile. Those intense eyes flashing when they met hers. It was a moment Liara would never forget.
Shepard had been rushed away after that. For medical attention and a full debrief by the Alliance and the Counsel. Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams and Liara had gone through a joint debrief, followed by a rather intense individual debriefing. The Alliance seemed skeptical of her motives by default simply because she was not human. A sentiment she was used to from some members of the Normandy crew, not the least of which was Ashley Williams herself. But the Chief had been waiting for her once she was released and insisted to her superiors that Liara should return to the Normandy. That she was part of the Normandy crew and until the Commander released her, they better back off or have hell to pay. Liara was surprised, but the Chief didn't comment further once they were alone.
That had been three days ago. The Commander still had not returned. No word had been given other than that the entire crew was sequestered to the ship until otherwise notified. That included it's non-human occupants.
"Still nothing?" a quite voice sounded behind her. Liara turned, finding Tali, one of the three other non-humans who had taken up Shepard's cause and aided in defeating Saren.
Liara shook her head, fidgeting. Tali's eyes were mostly obscured by her full face mask, something all Quarians were required to wear or face death from massive infections to their sensitive immune systems. None the less Liara could feel the young engineer's eyes studying her.
After a moment Tali sighed and said, "Well, you might as well wait with the rest of us."
Not much later Liara found herself in the nearly deserted lounge of the Normandy. She thought it slightly odd that the place was empty save herself, Tali, Garus and Wrex and commented on as much.
"Heh," Wrex's rumbling chuckle filled the room, "there were a bunch of them in here when we first arrived but they scurried away when they saw us coming." The hulking Krogan battlemaster grinned, obviously happy with this result. Wrex's grin made him appear even more intimidating than his reputation and rough personality already did.
"I think what Wrex means is," Garrus clarified, "the humans didn't care to socialize with us. It's our good looks. Far too intimidating." Garrus was a Turian, tall and proud with a quick wit. He joined Shepard looking for some way to make a difference. Frustrated with the feeling of impotence at being able to affect real change as a security officer for C-Sec on the Citadel, Shepard offered the opportunity to get outside of the red tape and diplomacy that were so often restrictive. The Turian had proven his worth ten fold and Liara sensed he had a honest respect and affection for the Commander.
Liara marveled again to herself at just how unique the Commander was in her ability to view people and situations free of the jaded perceptions and stereotypes that seemed so prevalent among her fellow human crew members.
"Why do you think Shepard hasn't come back? How many times can you tell the same story over three days?" Tali asked.
Garrus shrugged. "She's got a lot of people to answer to now. The Alliance, the Counsel, C-Sec. And with the damage caused to the Citadel Tower I'm sure there's hell to pay."
"But she saved the Counsel," Liara reasoned. "Surely that has to count for something."
"The Counsel is an ungrateful lot," Wrex rumbled. "I'm sure they forgot that as soon as they saw their precious tower destroyed. And don't forget that she sacrificed human lives to save them. I'm sure the Alliance will have something to say about that as well."
"My guess is they're coming up with a plan to deal with the Reapers," Garrus speculated. "There's no doubt they're coming now and it will take a collaboration of resources across species if we're going to have a chance. That type of planning doesn't happen overnight."
"Cross-species collaboration?" Tali said. "Do you think that means we'll be able to stay on the Normandy?"
Liara looked up, a little startled. She hadn't thought of being made to leave the Normandy but of course it made sense. The mission that required them was over. The Normandy was an Alliance vessel and the Alliance was a human organization. And it wasn't like they had been accepted by the crew with open arms. She felt her heart sink at the thought.
"I can't wait to get off this ship," Wrex grumbled. "Krogan aren't meant to be cooped up in tin cans."
"Don't you want to help stop the Reapers?" Tali asked him.
"My agreement with Shepard was to help stop Saren and he's good and dead." Wrex and Shepard had butted heads on the mission on Virmire a few weeks prior. It was a testament to Shepard's diplomatic skill that one or both of them hadn't ended up dead. It was also one of the only indications that Wrex actually had begrudging respect for the human Commander. "My only mission is to cure my people of the genophage and I've neglected that long enough."
"You do understand that if the Reapers destroy the galaxy, it won't matter if the Krogan can make babies or not." The eye-roll was clear in Tali's voice.
Wrex leaned forward, his bulky mass crowding the slight, young Quarian. "I'll leave the heroics to you and the human pests, space rat."
Tali merely crossed her arms, rebuffing the insult and intimidation with her usual spunk.
They all turned as the door swished open. Chief Williams stepped in, quickly eyeing the room, empty save the motley crew of non-humans. She folded her arms and leaned against the doorway. "What's going on in here?"
"Oh you know Chief, plotting mutiny and complete annihilation of the human race. The usual," Garrus said, leaning casually back in his chair.
"What else do us aliens have to talk about anyway," Tali added.
Liara remained quiet but watched the distrust flicker through the Chief's features. To her credit, she kept her misgivings to herself, which was certainly a new development. Instead the dark haired Chief straightened and planted her fists on her hips. "The Commander is back."
"Shepard?" Liara asked a little too quickly, bolting up from her chair.
"Down girl," Tali muttered under her breath.
Ashley's eyes cut to Liara for a moment before moving back to the group. "She's called a briefing in the Comm in five. She's asked for you all to be there."
Garrus nodded. "We'll be there Chief."
Ashley nodded, her eyes jumping to each of them quickly, then taking her leave.
Shepard was finally back. The thought was both thrilling and terrifying to Liara. She'd wanted a chance to talk to the Commander. To find out if she was ok, to ask what she was thinking about the Reapers, to pick her brain about the Protheans, to find out where she, they, stood. But the idea that she could be leaving the Normandy and soon was filling her with panic. She glanced down at her hands, twisting together of their own accord, fidgeting.
When they arrived in the Comm, the Alliance officers were already seated. Prestley, Adams, Joker and Williams all looked up. For a moment there was a stalemate, the humans and non-humans staring, judging, evaluating each other. Engineer Adams was the first to break the tension, smiling at Tali. In the past few months he'd become quite impressed with the scrappy Quarian. Her knowledge of engines and systems from growing up in the Migrant Fleet had provided a wealth of efficiencies to the Normandy and Adams was the first to volunteer to the Commander just how helpful Tali had been.
They took their seats, filling in the empty spaces in the circle of chairs, facing the center where Shepard would stand.
"Oh great, it's a regular Galactic United Nations," Joker commented in his dry, sarcastic way.
The joke was lost to the non-humans, which was perhaps the true point of the quip.
"Stow it, Joker," Williams mumbled to the Normandy pilot.
Prestley's expression alternated between discomfort and outrage. Outside of Chief Williams he'd been one of the most vocal about his distrust of their non-human counterparts. But Ashley had spent the last few months fighting with them side by side and found her views changing. Prestley on the other hand, remained as hostile and suspicious as ever. The XO's lips were so tightly pressed together they made a grim white line across his face.
Liara was oblivious to most of the exchanges and the lingering tension in the room. Instead her heart was hammering in her chest, her palms sweating. She forced a deep breath, forced inner calm, forced her twisting fingers to untangle and rest on her thighs. Just as she managed to wrestle her feelings into order, she looked up to find a familiar pair of blue eyes staring at her. Her breath caught and held in surprise. She felt her eyes go a little wide in recognition.
After three days of waiting, Shepard was standing in front of her. The blue eyes looking at her began to dance, the lips beneath them tipping into the slightest of smiles.
It must have only been a momentary glance, but Liara felt like she'd been caressed. She felt a wave of calm flow through her and she released the breath she'd been holding, managing a small, gentle smile in return.
As the familiar eyes left her, she saw a curtain being drawn over Shepard's features. The blue eyes hardened, the smile vanished, her entire countenance became serious.
Her commanding gaze cut to Prestley. "Report," she ordered.
Prestley's back went ramrod straight, "Commander, the minor damage sustained during the attack has been repaired. All crew is accounted for."
Shepard nodded. "Good."
"What's the plan Commander? When can we head out after these Reaper bastards?" Ashley cut to the chase.
Shepard seemed to mentally pause before bringing her gaze to Ashley. "Officially, the Alliance and the Counsel do not believe there is a Reaper threat. In fact, they don't believe they exist at all."
A momentary silence of confusion filled the small room.
"How can that be?" Liara asked.
"The official story is that the attack on the Citadel was soley a result of Saren and the Geth."
"What about Sovereign? How do they explain the giant Reaper ship appearing in the center of the Citadel?" Garrus asked.
"They are calling it a Geth Dreadnot."
"That's ridiculous!" Tali shouted. "We all saw it! They all saw it! That was no Dreadnot."
"There are pieces of it laying all over the Citadel," Ashley jumped in. "How can they just ignore that?"
Similar protests erupted around the room and when Shepard said nothing it eventually lapsed into a stunned silence.
"You said 'officially'?" Liara finally breached the quiet.
Shepard's eyes cut over to her and she nodded. "That's right. UN-officially… they don't know what to do about it, so they're going to ignore it and hope it goes away."
"A strategy that obviously worked for the Protheans, since they're extinct and all," Joker added.
"They're cowards, the lot of them. The Counsel especially," Wrex rumbled. "You should have let the Geth rips them to shreds."
"So what do we do now?" Ashley asked.
"Officially, our orders are to seek out and eliminate any remaining pockets of Geth activity," Shepard said.
"Please tell me we're doing something more exciting in an unofficial capacity," Ashley responded.
Shepard folded her arms across her chest and set her jaw, her eyes sharp and dangerous like chips of glacial ice. "We're going to do exactly what we're ordered to do. But while we're out there, we are going to be looking for any clues and following any leads on the Reapers. I want to know when, where and how they're coming and I plan to be there ready and waiting to blow them into space dust when they do."
"Oh hell yeah," Joker agreed. Shepard pinned him with an expectant look. "I mean, oh hell yeah Commander," he added belatedly.
She paused, meeting everyone's gaze, "We have three days to resupply and squeeze a little R&R for the crew before we head out."
"And what about us?" Tali spoke up.
Liara felt her breath stop in her chest.
Shepard turned her gaze to Tali, raising an eyebrow. "That's ultimately up to each of you. We could certainly use your help on this. I'm hoping you'll all stay as permanent additions to the crew."
"But the Normandy is a human ship…" Prestley began to protest.
"The Normandy is my ship and while it may be an Alliance vessel and you are Alliance officers, I am also a Counsel Spectre and will build my crew in the way I see fit. And I want the strongest, smartest, best goddamn crew out there which is what we're going to need if we hope to have a chance against the Reapers. Each of these people has gone above and beyond proving their worth and loyalty and we all owe our lives to their efforts."
She stalked closer, her sharp gaze cutting to each of her human officers, "Anyone that has a problem with the way I plan to run this ship better transfer before we ship out in three days because if I hear one whisper of malice after that, the offender will find themselves out an airlock without a spacesuit. Understood?" She was standing over Prestley, hands balled into fists at her sides.
"Yes ma'am," Prestley said weakly.
"Good," Shepard's tone lightened and she stepped back, swinging her gaze to Garrus, Tali, Wrex and Liara. "So what'll it be?"
"Count me in Shepard. I want to get these Reaper bastards," Garrus said.
"Me too," Tali jumped in. "I can't think of any better way to protect the Migrant Fleet."
All eyes turned to Wrex expectantly. He grimaced. "My loyalty is to my people," he rumbled. "But if the Reapers destroy the galaxy, it won't matter if the Krogan can make babies or not. I'm in."
Tali shook her head at Wrex and discretely kicked him in the shin. He growled at her.
Shepard smiled and nodded. Then her gaze shifted to the Asari. "And what about you Liara?" Shepard asked, her voice loosing it's harsh tone from earlier.
Liara tried valiantly and relatively successfully kept the grin bubbling up inside her from breaking out unchecked on her face. "It would be my honor to stay, Commander. I would hope my knowledge of the Protheans can be of some use."
Shepard nodded and turned her attention back to the group. "It's settled then. Adams and Tali, I want our engines and systems in top notch shape before we ship out. Garrus I want you to take a look at the Normandy guns and update the calibrations. Wrex I want you to use your connections here on the Citadel to bolster our weapons stores. You can coordinate with Chief Williams on that. Presley roll out the official mission parameters to the crew, make sure they see some R&R before we ship out. Liara I'd like you to dig into all of the Prothean data we collected on Ilos and see if you can determine the early warning signs for the Reaper attack. I want Ilos to be our first stop. I'm hoping the Prothean AI we discovered will still be functional by the time we get there."
Everyone nodded with a round of Aye-ayes.
Shepard paused, taking a breath. "The road ahead isn't going to be easy. We'll be on our own out there. I want everyone at their best." She made eye contact around the room. "One more thing." She paused. "I want to hold a small memorial service for Kaiden. Presley you can…"
"I'll handle it ma'am," Ashley interrupted. Shepard began to shake her head but Ashley pressed forward, "Please ma'am."
Shepard paused, studying her Chief before finally nodding her ascent. "Ok Williams. Before we ship out."
"Dismissed." They all stood to leave. "Joker patch me through to Admiral Anderson."
Liara had made an effort to go back to her quarters which were tucked behind the med bay and work. But after thirty minutes of staring at her screen absorbing nothing she gave up. There was something she had to settle first. This led her back to the same worn track in the Normandy plating she'd claimed so often recently, pacing outside of the Commander's quarters.
She had to speak with Shepard alone, if only for a moment. Her mind was constantly trying to insert logic into the situation as she paced. The Commander obviously had much bigger issues to deal with and she was counting on Liara to contribute. And Liara wanted to contribute. But this had to be settled first. As much as her logical mind tried to argue, the emotional whirlwind that had begun from the moment she'd laid eyes on the Commander certainly had the upper hand. She simply had to know where she stood.
Turning on her heels in her pace, a tingle started at the base of her neck and raced down her spine. She stopped short, her mental argument momentarily forgotten. Her eyes lifted and she froze in place. Across the mess she watched as Commander Shepard strode purposefully towards the med bay.
Just as the doors swished open, the Commander stopped short, as if suddenly uncertain. She paused, rubbing the back of her neck absently before glancing to her left, her eyes finding Liara.
Despite Shepard's appearance being what'd she'd been pacing in anticipation of for days, Liara's feet were suddenly rooted to the spot. She remained frozen in place even as the Commander abandoned her original destination and slowly made her way over until she was standing in front of her.
"Are you alright"
"Are you ok?"
They both paused, having rushed to speak over each other. Shepard glanced down a moment, her lips tipping into a smile.
"Are you on guard duty outside my quarters?" Shepard asked quietly.
"I'm sorry Commander," Liara said, finding her voice again. "I was only waiting to see… I wanted to make sure you were alright. The last time I saw you after Saren…"
"It was only a dislocated shoulder. It's happened more times than I can count, so I'm used to it. It's fine now," Shepard said.
"Were you going to see Dr. Chakwas?"
A look of confusion passed over Shepard's face, glancing behind her at the med bay. Then a smile crept over her lips. "Actually, I was on my way to your quarters to see you."
Liara looked up and met the blue gaze now aimed at her.
"We didn't have a chance to talk after…" She didn't finish and Liara couldn't help but wonder after which life altering event she was referring. "Well," she continued softly, "I wanted to make sure you were ok."
Liara allowed herself a smile and found it matched by the Commander. "I am well, thanks to you."
Shepard nodded, almost seeming disappointed.
"I was hoping I could have a moment of your time." Liara said. "Privately."
Shepard's eyes snapped back to hers, searching.
"I know you are very busy and have much to prepare for but…" Liara rambled on.
"Of course," Shepard interrupted. "Lets go to my quarters and we can discuss whatever you like."
Liara turned to follow Shepard into the door she'd been staking out for days on end. Now that the moment had come, she felt anxiety of a whole other sort flutter through her. She took a shaky breath and followed the Commander inside.
When the door closed behind her, she saw Shepard to the right at the table pouring an amber liquid into two glasses. The room was sparse by design and therefore without much clutter but even so Liara recognized that it looked exactly has she'd left it after their night together. The few data pads scattered about remained in the same position, as did the sheets, pooled and rumpled as they had been when she'd hastily left to prep for the mission on Ilos. It occurred to her once again that Shepard hadn't been back to the Normandy since then. That night seemed almost a lifetime ago after all that had transpired.
She was pulled from her musings by Shepard's voice. "Try this," she said softly, her hand extended offering a glass. Liara took it, nodding her thanks. "It's Scottish whiskey from Earth. It's pretty potent stuff…"
Liara downed the liquid in one gulp, without the hint of a grimace afterwards. Shepard stared at her, eyes wide. Mistaking the look for an expected comment Liara smiled and said, "It is very good."
Shepard's smile spread slowly and she shook her head to herself, tossing back her drink as well, but unable to stifle the grimace as it burned a trail down her throat.
Liara made her way over to the small fish tank, feeling more secure staring into the glowing blue water than the blue depths of Shepard's gaze. She traced a finger along the glass. "I can't believe the Counsel is ignoring the Reaper threat," she said quietly.
"I don't think I'll ever understand politics," Shepard said.
Liara continued to stare at the two eels in the tank as they glided through the water.
"Is that what you wanted to talk about?" Shepard's voice was gentle and just over her shoulder now.
Liara could almost feel the heat of the Commander standing behind her. She shook her head but didn't turn, finding herself once again frozen in place by the emotions surging through her.
"I wasn't sure you'd stay," Shepard continued. "I know you said you've come to terms with Benezia's death but you haven't even had time to mourn."
Liara sighed and turned, wanting Shepard to see her sincerity when she spoke. "My mother made her choices. She always did what she wanted. Followed her path, as she would say." She met Shepard's gaze. "Her choice to follow Saren was a mistake, but one she made willingly. I am… comforted… by the fact that she managed to break away, if even for a moment, from his control in order to provide us with the information we needed."
"It took a tremendous force of will to be able to do that," Shepard said. "She must have been very strong. You have her strength."
Liara laughed at that, shaking her head. "That I doubt. I was always running away from her."
"Is that why she called you 'little wing'? Because you were always trying to fly away?"
"Something like that," Liara's smile faded. "She wanted me to be something I couldn't."
Shepard nodded. "I know a little bit about what that's like."
"Did you're mother have a nickname for you too?"
"My first name. Not very creative but to this day she's the only one who uses it. Growing up on Alliance ships and stations I've been Shepard for as long as I can remember."
Liara smiled, "Jess. I like it."
"You can use it if you want," Shepard took a step closer, dropping her voice to just above a whisper. "Just don't let anyone else hear you." She smiled, crooked and charming. "So, if it's not the Counsel and it's not Benezia, what is it you wanted to talk about?"
Moment of truth. Liara looked up and met Shepard's gaze. "I wanted to talk about us." She tried to gauge Shepard's expression but found it frustratingly unreadable. "As I mentioned before, the bond we shared in the joining can be a one time event or… it could be more. We've spoken before about our seemingly shared… feelings… connection. But afterwards everything happened so quickly we didn't discuss… or I didn't ask… I mean I wanted to ask…"
"Liara," Shepard interrupted her verbal spiral.
Liara felt a gentle finger under her chin, tilting her head until her eyes reached the rich blue depths of Shepard's. Once again she was captivated by the complexity she found there. So much depth and emotion and strength.
"I didn't want to make any promises heading into the situation with Saren. I wasn't sure how it would end," Shepard said, her voice quiet. "But even then I knew what I wanted. Experiencing the joining with you was… it was unlike anything I've ever experienced. It was amazing. You are amazing. I don't know what this…connection is between us. It's never happened to me before. But I do know Liara, have known from the beginning, that it's something I want to explore, if you're willing."
"I want that too, Jess," Liara whispered, afraid speaking too loudly might wake her from the dream she was obviously having.
Shepard smiled softly, her eyes dancing. "Good." Her expression sobered for a moment and Liara was certain she was going to wake up. "There is one thing we should discuss."
"There is the issue of me now officially being your commanding officer…"
Liara nodded, almost in relief. "Of course. Off duty, Jess. On duty, Commander Shepard."
Shepard smiled, wide and genuine. "Exactly."
Liara met her smile and they got lost in staring and grinning for a moment. "One more question," she said softly.
"Right now, are you on duty or off duty?"
Shepard's grin spread wide again, her blue eyes shining. "Definitely off duty."
She reached up grabbing Shepard's face with both hands and pulled her into a searing kiss. Shepard's hands immediately went around her, pulling their bodies together. They both released a sigh at the contact, their passion igniting, a match struck in the fumes of lust. Clothes were shed, hands and mouths explored eagerly, hungrily. The fight for their lives, the days of uncertainty, the fear of the unknown drove them into abandon together. They tumbled onto Shepard's bed, the friction of their naked bodies driving their passions to instant heights.
Liara pulled her lips away from devouring Shepard's lips only long enough to look in her eyes and say the magic words that would initiate the joining of their minds as well as their bodies. "Embrace eternity with me Jess," she whispered. Shepard felt the flow of Liara's emotion seeping into her awareness. It was like sinking into a warm bath. She felt it on every level, driving the physical passion that already surpassed anything she'd ever known to an even greater height. Liara eased their minds together as she stretched her body along the full length of Shepard's, feeling utterly surrounded and enveloped in the comfort and heat she was coming to identify with this woman, this human.
Their bodies moved against each other, blue skin flushed violet with rising passion against creamy white. Liara felt Shepard's pleasure echoed with her own. As Shepard's mind opened to her she saw flashes of the recent battle with Saren, felt Shepard's drive to win at all costs in those moments, but also the great desire to protect. She felt Shepard's feelings for her, about her, bleeding into her own. As she explored the depths of them their bodies moved faster together. Hands caressed and stroked and plunged. Mouths kissed and licked and sucked, stoking the flames of a passion untilt hey could no longer be contained.
When Liara cried out, her body shaking by the sheer force of being driven over the edge by pleasure, Shepard tensed as well, following her into the afterglow. They lay wrapped in each other some moments later, chests heaving, hands stilled. Liara turned to find that stunning blue gaze that first caught her interest watching her. She smiled, bringing a hand up to caress Shepard's cheek. Shepard's lips tilted into a lopsided smile, her arms wrapping around Liara's naked body and pulling her closer. Liara settled her head comfortably on Shepard's shoulder, breathing in her scent and sighed in contentment.
When Liara woke, she knew she was alone. In the empty space next to her on the bed she found a datapad waiting for her. She sat up, bringing it up to read.
You continue to amaze me with the depths of your beauty inside and out.
Duty calls. See you at morning briefing at 0700.
Liara didn't bother to restrain the smile that tugged at her lips. She ran her fingers over Shepard's name on the screen, knowing it was more than a signature, it was a symbol of intimacy.
Glancing at the time, she realized 0700 was fast approaching.
Silence hung in the Comm room at the pronouncement. Shepard's chin touched her chest as she hung her head, her brow twitched as if wincing.
"Damnit," she muttered. "Are you sure?"
Admiral Anderson's glowing blue figure stood as a projection in front of the gathered lead officers. He nodded grimly. "I sent a recon team out as soon as you gave me the details in your debrief. Power to the underground systems was nonexistant when they arrived. They found the corridor and the platform where you described seeing this Prothean AI, but whatever it was, it's lost now."
Liara closed her eyes. The loss of the wealth of information Vigil represented was staggering, especially if they sought any chance to get one step ahead of the Reapers. She had asked to stay longer, to ask more questions, to mine what information they could from Vigil in that moment, in fear of this very outcome. But they hadn't the time. Saren had already reached the Citadel through the Mu Relay. The Reapers would be next and then… well, then they'd all have been lost.
"It's a setback for sure," Shepard said grimly.
"What will you do?" Anderson asked. Though an Admiral in the Alliance and Shepard's commanding officer, he didn't share the fears and illusions of the other Alliance leadership or the Counsel. He trusted her enough to believe the impossible. And he would support her in whatever covert ways he could.
"The Counsel is suggesting the Terminus System," Garrus said. "As far from Counsel space as possible, of course."
"There have been scattered reports of trading vessels going missing recently. Not an uncommon occurrence since it's outside of Counsel space but it is a statistical anomaly," Prestley said.
"Why go chasing shadows when we know of several other places that might hold clues that we missed in our rush to get Saren?" Tali reasoned.
"What are we even looking for? Right now it sounds like searching for a needle in a haystack only we don't know what the needle looks like," Ashely said.
Shepard had avoided looking at Liara, not wanting to see her disappointment but her eyes settled on her now. "Liara?" she said, her voice low.
"I may be able to narrow the search parameters by combing through what intel we did managed to take from Ilos," Liara said.
"How long do you need?" Shepard asked.
"I should have at least a preliminary report by the time we ship out. In the meantime, Feros would appear to be the most logical next destination."
"Alright, let me know what you find," Shepard said, dropping her hands to her sides. "Dismissed."
Liara wasn't sure how many hours had past since she'd sat down at her desk and began sorting through the zetabytes of material they'd collected.
Hearing her door swish open she turned, her body protesting after being bent over her station for so long. She expected to see Shepard or Tali or even Dr. Chakwas. The last person she expect to be standing in her doorway was Ashely Williams.
The brunette officer stood awkwardly, as if suddenly rethinking her decision to enter.
"Chief Williams, can I help you?" Liara said.
"I didn't get a chance earlier… I wanted to say…" the Chief was obviously anxious and uncharacteristically at a loss for words.
"Please, sit," Liara said calmly, gesturing to a chair nearby.
Ashley sat down, leaning forward, elbows on her knees.
Finally she took a deep breath and met Liara's gaze. "After everything with Saren and Sovereign on the Citadel, I didn't get a chance to say thanks. I know you're not a trained soldier and when we started out on Ilos the last thing you expected was to be drawn into the do or die battle with that asshole. But you held your own." She shook her head, brow furrowed, "It was strange, it was almost like you could anticipate the Commander's movements and moved to cover or support where and when she needed it most. That's something you usually only see in seasoned soldiers after many battles together. And without your biotics I don't know if we could have..." She stopped herself, running a hand through her dark hair, her brown eyes settling on Liara's. "I just wanted to say thanks, for sticking it out with us."
To say Liara was surprised would have been a disservice to understatements everywhere. She blinked at the Chief, visibly stunned at the compliments. "Thank you Chief. It was an honor to fight with you and the Commander. I'm glad I didn't get in your way."
The Chief was usually a woman of action and few words. Liara was very aware that her own sometimes long winded explanations regarding science or history were quick to drive the other woman to aggravation.
Ashley gave her a knowing smile, some of her nervousness evaporating. "Well, I didn't say you don't still get on my nerves but I wanted you to know I'd be proud to go into battle with you any day."
Liara smiled. "Let's hope it's not too often Chief, for both our sakes. But when called upon I'd gladly fight by your side as well."
Ashely nodded and smiled, releasing a long breath.
Liara watched her, tilting her head to the side. "Not that I'm not grateful Chief, but is that the only reason you're here?"
Ashely chewed her bottom lip, her eyes fervently searching the bulkhead for some sort of answer she wasn't finding. "I was wondering… how the Asari deal with loss."
She glanced up, meeting Liara's open gaze. Liara nodded, suddenly understanding. "You were close to Lieutenant Alenko," she said.
Liara hadn't been on the Normandy long when the mission on Virmire had gone sideways. She knew Shepard had tried with everything she had to get everyone out alive but in the end she'd had to make a choice. She'd chosen to double back and provide cover for Ashley, who was defending the bomb that was being threatened by Saren, leaving Kaiden Alenko and the squad of Salarians he was commanding to fend for themselves against a new wave of attacks. In the end, they detonated the bomb successfully, but not before Kaiden and the entire unit of Salarians were killed. She knew both Shepard and Ashley felt the weight of his death personally.
Ashley glanced up, her eyes full of pain. "You lost your mother on Noveria. I can't imagine what that must have been like. But you seem to just… accept it and move on. I can't seem to get past Kaiden. I can't help but think it's my fault he's dead. If I'd been able to hold off Saren then the Commander could have gone back…"
Liara held up her hand, stopping her. "Ashley, you can't blame yourself. If you need to find blame, look to Saren, look to the Reapers. My mother made her own choices but Saren and the Reapers made that possible. We can't go back. We can only go forward. The Reapers want to wipe us all out. I intend to do whatever it takes to stop that, with you and with the Commander and anyone else willing to fight. I will do it to save others, but I will also do it to avenge my mother."
Ashely was watching her, watching the steely resolve harden her eyes and tighten her voice. Not for the first time she was finding this Asari scientist full of surprises. Ashely took in a breath and blew it out slowly. She felt the turmoil that had been roiling inside her settle. Liara was right. She couldn't let Kaiden's death pull her into an abyss. She'd be of no use to his memory there.
She nodded, standing. She met Liara's gaze once more, "Thanks Liara." Then she turned and left.
Finding herself alone once again, Liara fought down the feelings of rage she'd allowed to surface when speaking of avenging her mother. If she wasn't careful they would choke her, hold her hostage, bury her in grief and regret. There was no time for that now. Now was the time to hunt for the Reapers. To find them. Then they would destroy them.
The Normandy was due to depart the Citadel in twelve hours to begin the sweep for the Geth, per their orders. After sorting through an exhaustive amount of intel, Liara had her preliminary report ready. The amount of information she gleaned from the Prothean archives they liberated from Ilos was scarce at best. She only hoped that they would find more clues on Feros.
She looked at herself in the mirror, examining her third outfit. She was not sure what was appropriate to wear to a human ceremony honoring the dead nor had she had time to shop on the Citadel in the past few days since her work took priority. Tali had been kind enough to pick up a few options for her when picking up supplies earlier in the day. She ran a hand across the silken fabric that hugged her waist. The sleeves reached to her hands and length of the dress touched the floor, covering most of her blue skin with the subtle shimmering soft purple with a stripe of violet running vertically from head to foot down the front and back.
She hoped it was adequate as she was out of time to change again. Only adding to her nerves was the fact that she hadn't seen Shepard other than in briefings since their night together days ago. She felt a wave of heat rise from her belly all of the way to her face as she thought about the passionate evening they'd spent together. Though work had consumed her almost every waking moment she couldn't help but notice the dull ache when she thought of the Commander. She longed to touch her again. To run her hands in her dark red locks, to taste her skin, to see her passion reflected in those pools of blue Shepard would gaze at her with.
She took a breath in and out to collect herself. One thing she did know about a service honoring the dead, it was not a place for thoughts of lust. She tried to clear her mind and with another glance in the mirror, left her quarters.
The ceremony was to take place at the memorial wall on Deck Two and when she arrived, she found a sea of Alliance officers in attendance in their dress blues. Off to the side, sticking out against the homogenous bunch of uniformed humans were her fellow non-human crew members. She made her way to them, nodding in greeting.
"Glad to see you coming up for air, Liara," Garrus said quietly. "I was worried you might have drowned under a sea of datapads or something."
She graced him with a tired smile. "It was a definite possibility but I'm managing to tread water for the moment, thanks."
In front of the crowd she could see Ashley, looking pale and nervous, standing next to a large wall adorned with plaques displaying names of fallen Normandy crew members. Liara's gaze was drawn to the figure standing slightly behind and to Ashley's right. Commander Shepard cut a formidable figure in her dress blue Alliance uniform. Though her expression was solemn, Liara was struck once again by the piercing blueness of her eyes. She watched as the muscles along her jaw bunched under the skin, flexing at some thought passing through her mind. Her gaze went back to her eyes, and found them catching and hold her for a moment. Though nothing outwardly changed Liara felt more than saw a flicker of warmth pass through Shepard's eyes. Liara gave the slightest of nods in greeting before breaking the connection as Ashley cleared her throat.
"When I first met Staff Lieutenant Kaiden Alenko on Eden Prime, I thought he was an ass." A knowing chuckle ran through the crowd. "He grilled me about the loss of my squad. About how I managed to survive when others did not. About the choices I'd made in battle. I thought he was arrogant, and entitled, and… well, an ass."
Liara watched a smile tug at the corner of Shepard's lips.
"But over the next few weeks I realized nothing could have been further from the truth. Kaiden had been through struggles of his own. He'd lost people. Lost crew mates, fellow soldiers, friends. It made him careful and cunning and unwaveringly loyal. Loyal to his commanding officers," she spared a glance over her shoulder at Shepard. The muscles around Shepard's jaw were bunching again. "And loyal to his fellow soldiers. You couldn't help but get past his flaws because you knew he would always have your back. And he did, until the very end."
Several heads were bowed in respect.
"There's a poem my Grandfather used to recite to us every time we saw an Alliance memorial.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
"Kaiden, like so many other soldiers before him, was fighting for something. He was fighting for us to continue on. We owe it to him now to take up that fight. To carry on. To make him as proud of us as we are of him."
Ashley raised the plaque in her hands and slowly placed it on the wall adding Kaiden's name to the others memorialized.
"Atten-TION!" Shepard's voice rang in the quiet room. All of the Alliance officers snapped into a respectful salute.
Liara's eyes ran over Kaiden's name on the plaque. Her gaze settled on Ashley Williams, her hand held stiff in salute but her eyes looking hard at the plaque, burning with a fire Liara recognized deep within herself. Her mind drifted to the poem, the lines that spoke of taking up the quarrel, picking up the torch, carrying on the cause. Vengeance. The gentle words of the poem spoke to vengeance. She felt a flush of heat run through her veins. She kept the feelings of rage surrounding her mother's death well hidden but they didn't fade. How much more loss would they all endure before they could extract their vengeance and free themselves of it. Would they ever really be free?
She stared at Ashley, understanding more about her than she had before.
"Dismissed," Shepard pronounce and the spell was broken. The moment passed. The time for mourning was over. The torch had been passed.
Liara returned to her quarters, leaving the human officers gathered trading war stories and memories of Kaiden. If she were honest with herself, she knew she had been jealous of the confident Lieutenant when she'd first joined the Normandy. It was obvious that Shepard had a great respect and affinity for Kaiden. Unlike some of the others, he had not judged Liara because of her species. He had judged her because of her mother's connection to Saren. That and the unspoken challenge for Shepard's affections led them to distrust each other. They had barely spoken, instead sizing each other up in sidelong glances and posturing. Eventually, Liara had asked Shepard point blank if there was something more between her and the Lieutenant and though Shepard had attempted to put her mind at ease Liara was not convinced that Kaiden's motives were aimed at friendship even if the Commanders were. Still she had never wished him ill. His loss had come as a shock, even to her.
She was pulled from her memories at the sound of her door opening. She looked up, finding Shepard leaning against it. She cast Liara a gentle smile, though her face and eyes still held the remnants of sadness.
"Hi," Shepard said softly.
"Hello Commander," Liara said, standing. "Is there something you need?"
This caused a smile to tug at Shepard's lips as she glanced down at her boots. When she met Liara's puzzled gaze again, some of the sadness had lifted. She pushed off the door and took a few slow steps towards Liara. "You've been working non-stop for the past few days. Since we leave in the morning I thought you might like to take a few hours of downtime on the Citadel. Who knows when we'll be back here next."
Liara glanced at her desk piled high with datapads of information she still had to comb through for clues. "I appreciate your concern Commander but there is still so much…"
Her words escaped her at the feather light touch of Shepard's fingers against her cheek. She brought her eyes back to Shepard's, finding her standing close and looking at her with those dancing eyes and slanted smile. "Join me for dinner? Just a few hours. I promise not to keep you away from your work too long. I hear your Commander is a slave driver."
"Slaves?" Liara couldn't help the flutter of her eyelids as Shepard continued her caress. "I… I suppose a few hours… would be alright." She reached up, grabbing Shepard's hand and stilling her movements. She met her gaze, "As long as you accompany me in an off duty capacity." She stepped forward, closing the gap between them, feeling a heady rush surge through her as their bodies made the slightest contact. "I don't think I could be responsible for my behavior otherwise."
Shepard grinned and inclined her head in agreement.
The Citadel was an ancient space station, it's complete origin story lost in the histories of species long gone. An enigmatic race of creatures called the Keepers kept it constantly repaired and up to date over time as technology grew and changed. But even for the Keepers the damage caused by the recent battle would take months to repair.
The station consisted of a multi-level ring called the Presidium from which five arms, called the Wards, extended out like the petals of a mechanical flower. The Citadel tower, the delicate, elite center of the current galactic governing body the Counsel, extended from the center of the ring. That is it did up until a week prior, when the tower was mostly destroyed in the battle against Saren and Sovereign.
As such, with areas closed of repairs it forced most of the Citadel's many varied species of inhabitants away from the Presidium and into the Wards for entertainment. Typically the Wards housed the middle and lower classes anyway, but given the current circumstances the crowd was a mix of high society and wealth to station urchins and those scraping by.
When they left the restaurant where they'd enjoyed dinner and ventured into the crowded streets, Shepard had discretely taken Liara's hand in her own so as not to lose her as she led the way. After days and weeks of stress and fighting and being confined to the Normandy, the excursion was a refreshing break. Added to that the company and complete attention of Shepard and Liara's head buzzing with excitement.
Shepard led them through the throngs past shops and clubs with pulsing beats, eventually turning down a narrow, dim alley. The sounds from the streets became distant and hollow against the tall, narrow walls and the air turned humid. After a few minutes of snaking through a maze of back alleys, the walls suddenly gave way to a ledge revealing a wide, sweeping view of the Ward below them and a glimpse of the four other wards extended out from the Presidium against the muted dark landscape of space and the colorful tendrils of the Serpent Nebula beyond.
Liara stopped, staring at the amazing view in front of her. It was rare, especially in the Wards that you could see beyond the light pollution, hiding the true shape of the Citadel from view. But from this prefect position, you could not only see the wonders of the massive station itself, but the beauty of space beyond it.
She exhaled, letting a smile grace her lips, taking it all in.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" Shepard's quiet voice reverently asked.
Liara nodded, watching as several frigates and cruisers flew past, mere dots against the backdrop. "It's amazing."
"I came across this spot by chance when I was chasing some mercs a few weeks ago. I always wanted to come back under less… urgent circumstances." Shepard cast her a smile. She motioned towards the edge of the rather steep drop and moved to sit, letting her booted feet dangle over the edge.
Liara followed her lead, taking a seat on the perfectly manicured grass and letting her feet dangle over the drop. She heard Shepard release a sigh and glanced over, finding that she had her hands behind her and was leaning back against them, her blue eyes traveling over the pinpoints of light beyond. It was quiet, the maze of walls they'd traveled through acting as a buffer to the bustle of the crowds. Liara took the moment to study Shepard's profile in the low light of the night in this less guarded moment. Her skin was smooth and light in color with a dusting of freckles across her nose and cheeks. They also appeared across her shoulders and collarbone as well, but those were now hidden beneath the blue fabric of her uniform. She had dark red hair that fell to her shoulders when not pulled back as it was normally. Humans had many unique qualities that separated them from the other races of the galaxy not the least of which was that fact that they were the only species with hair on their head or otherwise. But even amongst humans Shepard's hair color was rare. Liara had been fascinated by it, by the look of it, the texture, the softness. She loved to wrap her fingers in it when they kissed, loved the feel of it as it grazed across her skin when Shepard left trails of kisses over her body. And her lips, soft and full and…smiling at her in that lopsided, knowing way as they were now.
Liara's eyes snapped up to realize she'd been caught in her daydream. Shepard was watching her, smiling, piercing blue eyes dancing as they looked into Liara's startled gaze.
"Penny for your thoughts," Shepard said softly.
A puzzled crease marred Liara's forehead. "Penny?"
Shepard smiled, "An old human saying. What are you thinking about?"
Liara's skin flushed from blue to violet in the dim light. She smiled, meeting Shepard's gaze shyly. "I was thinking about how you are unlike anyone I have ever met. And certainly not what I expected for an Alliance officer."
"Too good looking?" Shepard asked, grinning.
"Certainly that," Liara mumbled, smiling, before meeting Shepard's gaze again. "You're strength amazes me."
Shepard shrugged, looking out into the night again. "I'm just a soldier."
"You're much more than that," Liara said quietly. "You inspire loyalty like I've never seen. You are a born leader."
Shepard kept her gaze on the night sky, the muscles in her jaw bunching. "I guess time will tell," she said quietly. After a moment, she glanced over with a half smile, "Is that really what you were thinking about?"
Liara smiled back, "Not exactly." The crease appeared again.
Shepard reached over and tried to smooth it with a gentle caress. "It's just us and the stars here Liara," she said softly, letting her hand drop back behind her again.
After a moment more Liara began to put a voice to her thoughts. "I've told you about my history, or rather lack of one. I can't help but find myself wondering about you."
"You mean have I had other lovers?" Liara nodded. "A few," she answered with a brief smile. "Most have been fleeting."
"Is that what this is between us? Fleeting?" Liara wasn't sure she wanted the answer.
Shepard's eyes snapped up to hers, seeming to search for something for a moment before she shook her head gently. "No. Not for me," she said quietly.
"Have you ever been in love?"
A smile chased across Shepard's lips again. "No. I never allowed myself the possibility. But now…" she let her voice trail off, concentration causing a wrinkle to form between her eyes.
"Now?" Liara pressed.
Shepard pushed herself up and turned to face Liara. She looked down at her hands for a moment, then met Liara's gaze with a serious expression. "Now…" She reached out between them, taking one of Liara's hands in hers, looking at her palm, rubbing her thumb across it and feeling their connection. She looked up, meeting the insecurity and genuine uncertainty in Liara's eyes. "I can't ignore this… this thing between us," she spoke almost in a whisper, "It's too strong. I feel more awake and alive when I'm with you than any other time I can remember. It's strange…" she looked away again the wrinkle deepening. "I have this awareness of you, whenever you're near, like I can sense your presence. And I feel more myself when I'm with you than I ever have which," she forced out a laugh, running a hand over her hair, "doesn't make any sense." She shook her head, "I can't understand it."
"I feel the same way," Liara said after a moment, her voice as quiet and questioning as Shepard's had been. Shepard's eyes came back to hers, searching again. "Like something was missing that I didn't even realize until…" she swallowed, "until I looked into your eyes."
Silence hung between them for a long moment as they studied each other.
"What do you think it means?" Shepard asked finally.
Love. The answer came simply and immediately in Liara's mind. But she couldn't bring herself to say it. No matter the depth and honesty of their conversation, it still felt too raw and frightening to voice.
Instead she reached up and placed her palm along the side of Shepard's face, a thrill running through her body as Shepard leaned into the caress. Their eyes met and held, challenging and questioning at the same time. Liara brought her other hand up and released the clip holding Shepard's hair up, watching as the soft strands tumbled to Shepard's shoulders. A small gasp escaped her as she let her fingers trail into the red locks. Her eyes skipped back to Shepard's finding them pools of liquid blue fire. Her fingers tightened in an instant, twisting in Shepard's hair and bringing their lips together in a crushing, passionate kiss.
She held back from initiating the joining, her recent thoughts of love to close to the surface to hide. Instead she focused on the feeling of Shepard's hands on her skin, not recalling or caring how they'd gotten between her and the fabric of her dress. She pushed back on Shepard's shoulders, they're lips never parting, and followed her to the ground. She broke off from the kiss to release a gasp of pleasure as Shepard's thigh pressed hard at the apex of the legs.
Shepard lifted herself up, pulling Liara's lips back to her own, rolling them until Liara was on her back. Her thigh began a rhythm with Liara's hips that had the Asari moaning into the kiss. When she broke free to gasp again, Shepard's lips moved to suck and nip at her neck. "Liara," her voice a whisper of passion between kisses.
Without the bond of the joining Liara found herself assaulted with the undiluted, pure pleasure and intensity of the physical contact. "By the goddess," she gasped again as Shepard's hand replaced her thigh, sinking into the heat and wetness waiting for her.
"Liara," Shepard whispered, this time sounding almost desperate.
"Jess, please," Liara gasped, asking for more.
Shepard answered without hesitation, plunging her fingers in deep. Liara's body answered by surging upwards. The strong pulse of her body's pleasure began to thunder through her. She was close. Shepard's mouth was our her breasts and as the pulse increased to the point of no return Liara reached out, grabbing Shepard's face in both hands, Liara's eyes shifting to black as at the last moment she initiated the joining. At once Liara tumbled over the edge of ecstasy and her pleasure surged through their bond, flooding into Shepard's mind and carrying her body over with the crashing wave.
Even as the intense thrum of pleasure pulses receded, they held each other, reveling in the bond they shared. At once desire and comfort, pleasure and contentment, thrill and safety. And love. The thought echoed between them, neither knowing who originated it, nor caring.
Liara turned her head, finding Shepard looking into her eyes. They were laying side by side in the cool grass, the night lights of the Citadel and space beyond their only company. Shepard reached up and cupped Liara's cheek. Her lips parted as if she were about to speak, but in the end after the briefest hesitation, she simply kissed Liara gently, reverently. Liara wrapped her arms around Shepard and tucked her head against her shoulder, sighing as Shepard's arms came around her, holding her. Contentment echoed between them. Neither had spoken the words, but they had shared the meaning through the joining. The words would come. We have time, they both thought.
Liara would think back to that moment often as the years progressed. It was a perfect moment. She would cherish it like a precious gift, only pulling it out of her memory to relive when she felt strong enough to not let the sorrow and rage take over. How was she to know that just days later, Shepard would be dead and her life torn apart.
Fire. Everywhere she looked were flames.
Another explosion threatened to knock her off her feet. The hurried, heavy sound of her own breathing was loud in her ears.
They had trained for this. In the event of catastrophic damage to the ship they were all to evacuate to escape pods. A quick check of her omnitool showed that three pods were already away. As she rounded the corner, she heard screams. More fire, the heat so intense she could feel it through the thick protective layers of her suit.
An explosion tossed them all off their feet. More screams. More flames. The explosion had come from behind her. She paused, wanting desperately to go back. Every cell in her being screamed for her to go back. But she had her orders.
She scrambled over debris, pushing forward. Five pods away. She reached the doorway of an empty pod, yelling so loudly her throat ached to get what crew were left in the area into the pod. Once Dr. Chakwas ducked past her she gave once last sweep. She felt the ship shutter under her. It was breaking apart. Liara glanced back over her shoulder to the way she'd come. To where she'd left Shepard. To where Shepard had ordered her to leave, to get the others to the pods and safely away. She desperately wanted to go back. To race through the wall of fire back to Jess. But it was the Commander who had given her the order. And she had sworn to follow.
She forced herself to look away and ducked into the pod. The doors quickly shut behind her and before she could think twice they were away, jettisoned with enough force to clear them from the Normandy. Dr. Chakwas was getting a head count from the other pods using her omnitool while Liara used hers to pull up an image of what was happening to the Normandy.
There was a sudden gasp from the other crew members huddled in the pod as the image came up on the screen. The Normandy was in pieces, a great hulking cylindrical ship looming over it, still firing.
"Dear God in heaven, what is it?" Dr Chakwas muttered.
Liara's eyes were on the nose of the Normandy. That is where Shepard was headed. She was trying to get to Joker, to stop the stubborn pilot from going down with the ship. While severed from the rest of the ship, the cockpit appeared to still be in tact.
"It's firing again!" someone exclaimed.
Liara watched, gripping the edge of the seat with white knuckles as the mysterious ship fired straight for the cockpit. A split second before the resulting explosion, they watched another emergency pod shoot clear.
Liara's fingers were flying over her omnitool trying to raise the pod. "Shepard? Joker? Damnit can you hear me?" she shouted.
Then, "It's Joker."
"Thank God," Dr. Chakwas said.
But the feeling of dread in the pit of Liara's stomach began to grow. "Joker, is the Commander with you?"
Silence. Then a choke and sob.
"She's… she's gone. She didn't make it."
Silence as Liara's world splintered, cracked, then shattered inside her soul. Just as her life had been completely changed when she'd first laid eyes on Shepard, it was once again irrevicably altered when Shepard was ripped from it.
Just then what remained of the Normandy ignited in a blinding explosion, the shock wave engulfing them in fire.
Liara bolted upright in her seat, gasping for breath. She tried to slow her breathing and her racing heartbeat as she took in her surroundings. The dim cockpit of a ship. Alone. Alone except for…
Her back stiffened. She turned in her seat to look at the small, dim cargo area behind her. There sat a stasis pod, scared with carbon scoring but in one piece. As reality came flooding back she buried her face in her hands, rubbing the heals of her palms into her eyes. She must have drifted off. She hadn't slept in weeks. Not since… her eyes drifted back to the pod. Rectangular in shape, just the right size for one human body.
An alarm from her console forced her gaze away from the box and back to the view in front of her. A station was looming ahead.
Blue biotic tendrils whipped from Liara without warning and pinned the two armed guards that had tried to put their hands on her against the walls. She held them there, arms outstretched but not close to touching them, her eyes dark and dangerous. As she closed her fists they struggled to breathe.
"Enough!" a voice commanded from the open doorway of the station dock. "Let them go Dr. T'soni. You have my word no harm will come to you."
Liara glared at the figure in the doorway and after a moment dropped her arms to her sides, the blue fields disappearing and the guards dropping none too gently to the floor.
The figure in the doorway walked towards her, revealing a woman with dark hair, sultry figure and a cold gaze. She stopped in front of Liara giving her an appraising look. Finally she cocked an eyebrow, "Do you have what we discussed?"
"Would I be here if I didn't?" Liara challenged, meeting the woman's unwavering gaze with a hostile glare.
"Let's have a look then, shall we?" She walked past Liara to where the stasis pod rested on the docking grate. She knelt by it, typing into her omnitool, running diagnostics.
Liara watched her carefully, noting the tight frown and subtle shake of her head.
Finally the woman stood up, still looking down at the pod. "It's in worse shape than I'd hoped," she said. She looked back at Liara. "Where's Feron?"
"He was captured and taken by the Shadow Broker's mercs. He sacrificed himself so I could get her here," Liara said.
The woman's gaze ran over Liara once again, her head tilting critically to the side, now noticing the singes and scuffs on her clothing, abrasions on her cheek, weary lines on her otherwise stoic face. Evidence of close calls she'd escaped to get where she was now. "You're not quite the wall flower I thought you to be."
"Can you do it?" Liara asked, ignoring the veiled compliment. "Can you bring her back?"
The woman looked back at the pod. "It's not ideal. But the Illusive Man is not one to give up easily." She looked up, meeting Liara's hard gaze with a steely one of her own. "And neither am I." She motioned for the guards to take the pod.
Liara tensed, her hands balling into fists. The woman came to stand in front of her once again, her cool blue eyes like chips of ice. "You've done your part. Cerberus has considerable resources and though some may question our motives rest assured we want what's best for humanity. And the Illusive Man believes that bringing Shepard back is the key to humanity's survival. Success or not, this will take time and there are of course no guaranties."
The pod disappeared into the next room, Liara's gaze following it ending in an empty stare once it was gone. She felt a hand on her arm and her eyes snapped back, hostile and dangerous. Despite that, the woman attempted a smile. "You've done what you can for her. Find something to do for yourself now."
Liara's gaze remained cold and determined. "I'm going to find Feron. And I'm going to destroy the Shadow Broker if it's the last thing I do."
The woman dropped her hand back to her side. "It very well may be." She moved past Liara, headed into the station.
"Miranda," Liara called out.
The woman turned, raising an eyebrow. "If you bring her back, what then?"
Miranda Lawson shrugged. "My only job is to bring her back. The rest is up to the Illusive Man." With that, she turned and walked away, the door sliding firmly shut behind her.
Once the coordinates were set and the Cerberus station was far behind her, Liara took in a deep, shuttering breath and exhaled. She turned, looking back into the cargo area. It was empty. So was she. So impossibly empty.
She slid her hand inside her suit over her left breast and when she pulled it out she held something in her grasp. She stared at her closed fist for a long moment before slowly letting her fingers pull back revealing two metal rectangles on a thin chain. Dog tags. Shepard's tags. She ran a finger lightly over the raised surface of her name. She imagined those thin pieces of metal pressed up against light skin, against a dusting of freckles. Without realizing it tears began to spill from her. They ran down her cheeks dropping into her hand.
It had been weeks but she hadn't cried. Not when she knew Shepard hadn't escaped the Normandy. Not when she learned that someone had gotten to her body before the Alliance. Not when she learned of the Shadow Broker's intention to hand her body over to the Collectors. Not when she agreed to give Shepard's body to Cerberus in exchange for information. Not even when she handed Shepard's body over the Miranda Lawson to use in hail mary project to try and bring her back. No. There was no time then. There was still something to be done for Shepard then.
But now… now she'd done everything she could. And even so she doubted it would be enough. She was alone. And broken. Irrevocably. Inconsolably. For the moment the sadness and grief and loss overwhelmed her. But soon that too would fade. And only the rage would remain.
But it would be worth it. It would be worth it just for the slightest inconvievable chance that Cerberus could bring her back. For now she would focus her rage elsewhere. She would harness it. Master it. Use it.
Because that's all she could do. That's all that was left.