Zaira paced outside the Consort's room, resisting the urge to kick the door down and instead chewing her lower lip. Saul had agreed to therapy a while back, but this was the first time they'd had to actually do it. Sha'ira had offered her services and Saul had taken her up on them, but she kept Zaira out of the room for privacy's sake.
She thought it was bullshit, but then again she wasn't a therapist, and Saul would tell her everything anyways, so she paced and worried her lip. It did nothing to stop her contemplating kicking the door down, but it made her feel better.
The door hissed open a minute later and Saul walked out, his face red and tear tracks down his cheeks. Zaira made to hug him but he held a hand up. "I'll meet you back at the hotel," he murmured, his voice rough.
She nodded in assent. "Alright." He gave her a small smile and walked away, his strides slow. She watched him go for a few seconds, before turning and heading into the office with a determined gait.
Sha'ira sat on one of her couches, nursing a cup of steaming tea and deep in thought, her eyes looking through the wall and into space. Zaira didn't need Tara's eyes to see the tear stains on the front of her dress, nor how less-than pristine it appeared. "What happened?" asked the Spectre, folding her arms and resisting the urge to tap her foot.
"We made some good progress," the Consort replied lowly, rotating her cup before slowly taking a sip of her tea. "Unfortunately, that was one step along a road a light-year long." She gazed at Zaira searchingly. "Your lover is, at heart, a good man. But he has many, many issues."
"I'm aware," Shepard said, rubbing the bridge of her nose and sighing. "Anything I should be aware of?"
"As I just said, there are many," Sha'ira paused, contemplating her tea and setting it aside to fold her hands in her lap. "The most alarming, though…he's got something of a Martyr Complex. If it came down to it, he'd turn himself into a monster if it would save the people he loves any pain. That's not all that unusual from people who've suffered massive trauma, or soldiers, even, but pair that with his obsession of gaining power, and you've got someone who, if told that the only way to save the Galaxy is to destroy half of it…he'd do it."
"That is troubling," Zaira murmured, tapping her lip. Something told her, though, that was not quite right. In her experience, Saul would rather exhaust every possible option than just straight up commit an atrocity. "I have noticed, though, that more than once he'd throw himself in front of a bullet or a rocket just to get a clean shot."
Sha'ira shrugged gracefully. "It's entirely possible that, subconsciously, Saul believes he should die. Again, not all that unusual for people who have been in his position." She took a deep breath, fixing Zaira with a level stare. "He may be resilient, but Saul is, at his core, broken. A cracked vase teetering on the edge of a table. From someone that he loves, like you, it would be very easy to give him that final push, to completely break him. It's his greatest weakness."
"I would never, ever, do that," Zaira replied firmly, her expression daring the Consort to deny her. Sha'ira nodded in satisfaction and leaned back, sipping her tea. "I'm curious; I've heard people say they waited upwards of fourteen months for an appointment with you, but not only do you show up at Garrus' wedding, when Saul barely mentions therapy you just happen to have a free spot? Now, of all times?"
The Consort shrugged easily, giving the Commander a sly smile. "He did something for me, a little while back," she said mysteriously, tenting her fingers in front of her face.
Sha'ira arched an eyebrow at her, smirking. "It's private. All you need to know is that I owe Saul immensely, and that I will always have time to speak to him."
Nothing much interesting happened after the wedding, besides having to go meet with a contact from the Council of Synthetic Intelligences while hungover. Finding out Avina, probably the most trusted source of information on the Citadel, is actually an AI…didn't actually surprise me that much when I thought about it. It's the perfect place to hide and gather information; I'm sure conspirators have conspired in what they think is outside her sensor range, only to get caught days later by 'anonymous tips'.
It would take a few days for the Intelligences to gather and board Orbit, but then our R&D would hit fuckin' lightspeed. All the ideas we could come up with could be prototyped, tested, fixed and tested again until it was perfect in a matter of hours. Jade can run a hundred simulations in a minute; multiple AI, five or six working in tandem could run thousands, tens of thousands. Orbit will go a long way in forging Project: Titan, but the Council will hone it to a razor's edge.
Plus, after we told Avina about the code that could control the Keepers and gave her the data we had, she found it in about two hours, so our alliance is already paying off.
But, more importantly, today was the day everyone would be leaving. Tela had already left the day after the wedding, but not before she ambushed me in the bathroom. Not the way most people say goodbye, but Tela's not most people.
Now, Zaira and I stand at the dock where a ship is being loaded with researching and archaeology equipment, bidding our farewells to Liara and Aelida. "I'll send you letters and pictures every week, I promise," Liara swears, her arms tight around me before she pulls back and plants a strong kiss on me. I commit the feel of her lips, hot and silken, and her scent, honey with an undertone of antiseptic and dust, to memory, giving her a warm squeeze before stepping away.
Liara turns to Zaira and gives her a hug while subtly moving in for a kiss; Zaira puts a finger to her lips with a dry glare. The asari scientist pouts and my lover rolls her eyes, pointing at her cheek. I'm so glad those two get along.
"Stay safe, okay?" I say to Aelida, giving her a tight hug. "And let's plan to hang out when you're done. I know a place that makes good sushi."
"It's a plan," she replies warmly, her hand rising to stroke my cheek. "I'll keep you in my heart until we meet again." Her eyes are soft, and glitter in the low light. I'll definitely miss her.
I give her a soft kiss and a wink, then stand aside and let her bid farewell to Zaira. We wave as the ship takes off, watching as it disappears into the storm of salvage and repair vehicles. We hold hands as we step into an elevator, taking it down to a much lower level.
If I seem sad, that's because I am. Garrus and Chloe left on their honeymoon, Tela's taken off, Nihlus left, Liara and Aelida are leaving, Wrex is probably gonna stomp off soon and now we have to say goodbye to Tali…it feels like the end of an era. I know we'll get back together soon, but I miss my friends!
Even if half of them aren't gone yet. But the other half is!
It's a scene similar to above, but with a quiet air of tension as multiple Quarians rush to load a well-traveled ship with crates. It's hard to get an exact count of them with all the scurrying about, but it definitely looks like it'll be a tight fit. And now I'm thinking of space sardines, and I'm supposed to be sad.
In contrast to the rush below, Tali is calmly leaning against the railing, watching the proceedings with an air of boredom and her cheek in her hand. "Having fun?" I ask, and she jumps in surprise, spinning around to face us.
"Oh hey!" She says, fidgeting with her fingers. "I didn't see you there…"
"Couldn't hear the lift arriving over your bored sighs?" Zaira asks, peering down at the scuttling Quarians. "What's going on with them?"
Tali rolls her eyes visibly. "They're panicking because they think the Citadel will blame them for the Geth attack." Not unreasonable, except…
I blink in confusion. "Blame…them?" I say slowly, my voice incredulous. "Have they not seen the news? They're openly calling it The Reaper Attack; they haven't hidden anything anything at all. The only person they're blaming is Saren. And Sovereign, but he wasn't a person."
"I tried to tell them that," Tali sighs, shaking her head and rolling her eyes. "I didn't try too hard, though. I want to get back to the Fleet quickly."
"Sneaky," I nod approvingly, moving in for a hug. Man, her cloak is soft. And she's so huggable! "I don't know how good the Fleet's extranet connection is, but don't be a stranger, okay?"
"Of course!" She replies, sounding slightly offended before pulling Zaira in for a tight embrace. "I'll have to talk to the Board, but I do want you to visit me at the Fleet, to see how we live and introduce you to my father."
I'm tempted to make a joke about meeting the parents so soon, but I can't! My sadness has eclipsed my sarcasm! Oh gods, this is the end of an era!
"That sounds good," Zaira says with a smile, giving the Quarian a final squeeze and stepping back. "Take care-"
"We are leaving, Tali'Zorah!" One of the quarians barks nervously, his suit red. Not from embarrassment or anxiety, it's just that color…why am I clarifying to myself? I already know what I'm thinking…man I have problems.
"I'm coming!" She calls back, lunging forward to grab us both in one last hug, before jumping over the railing and landing on the floor ten feet below in a roll. Tali gives us a wave as the door closes, and the battered ship rises quickly and books it to the Relay like bullet from a gun.
"Damn," Zaira whistles, crossing her arms. "I think I saw three, maybe four near-misses."
"They really wanted to get out of here," I add in amusement, before sighing. "And there goes another friend."
"Not forever," she says softly, slipping her hand into mine as we step into another lift, this time heading towards the Normandy's docking bay. "We'll get to see them in a few weeks, maybe months, but it isn't goodbye. It's more like 'see you later'."
"I know, but I'm still sad," I mumble in reply, leaning my head on her shoulder. "You wanna make out in an elevator? It'll make me feel better."
Zaira chuckles quietly, her other hand coming up to play with my hair. "Is there enough time?"
I wave her question. "Pssh, of course there's enough time! We could have a quickie without even having to hit the emergency stop." Of course, that's when the elevator comes to a stop on our floor. "Well, fuck me."
She laughs again, patting my cheek condescendingly. "Maybe later," Zaira teases, stepping out and coming face-to-face with Admiral Hackett. "Admiral!"
Her hand snaps up reflexively into a salute, nearly smacking Hackett on the nose even as her fingers bounce off her forehead. His stern visage cracks in what might be an amused smile before it fades just as quickly.
I snicker quietly at the redness on Zaira's cheeks, and her response is to dig an elbow into my side. With a roll of my eyes, I bring my feet together and calmly give the Admiral a salute as well.
"At ease," he intones, his voice just as calming and authoritative in person as it is on comms. "I'm glad I ran into you, Shepard. There's something we need to discuss."
"What can I do for you, sir?" She replies immediately.
Well, that's suspicious. I doubt there isn't anything Hackett could say now that couldn't have been said over the comms. "First of all, congratulations on your promotion, Captain Shepard," He pulls a small box out of his pocket and cracks it open, revealing the Eagle and Bars of the Captain Rank. I'm only guessing it's an eagle, I can't actually see it all that well. "It's been a while coming, and your service in stopping Sovereign and Saren gave the final nudge."
Zaira shakily takes the box, staring at the insignia with wide eyes. This is a big deal for her, I can tell. Can't say why, though, and the way she's staring so intently is starting to make me jealous. And I've just now discovered I can become jealous of inanimate objects, for fuck's sake.
"Thank you, Sir," She murmurs, closing the box and storing it away, standing with her back so stiff I'm a little afraid her spine is gonna snap. "What's the other thing?"
Hackett sighs, grimacing in distaste. "I know you've had your fill when it comes to dealing with hostile synthetic intelligences, but your team are experts. There's a situation on Luna. A Training VI has gone rogue, turning drones on our people and it isn't responding to shut-down commands. I need you and your team shut it down manually."
"You can count on us, sir," Zaira swears, her visage stern. I was wondering when this was going to pop up. Hey, maybe I can get it calm the hell down with Jade and bring another AI into the fold? The Council could fix it up right quick.
"I know I can," Hackett nods, folding his arms behind his back. "Good hunting, Captain Shepard." And then he's gone, walking into the elevator and disappearing out of our lives. Until he calls again.
Zaira waits until he's completely out of sight before bouncing and squealing like a balloon with a hole in it, nearly tackling me to the floor and strangling me at the same time. "Jesus, Zaira!" I wheeze, "You just got promoted, you didn't win first prize at the arcade!"
"Shut up!" She shrieks joyfully. "Do you know how long I've been a Commander? I thought I'd be one until I died!" The smile on her face could only be taken off by a one of Sovereign's main guns, and even that seems unlikely.
"I don't know what you said to make her squeal like that," Wrex grunts, giving a small grin. "But good work."
Looking up, I see that Wrex has a large pack slung over one shoulder and his Prime Rifle on the other. "Taking your leave, Wrex?" Obviously.
"Yeah," he grunts, shifting his pack on his shoulder. "Before all this, I wanted nothing to do with my people, as self-destructive as we seem to be. But, on this journey, I've become friends with a buncha humans, a few of asari and even a couple of turians. I've learned much about myself, and I came to the realization that, if I wait for my people to pull their heads outta their asses, I'm gonna die of old age. And I'm tired of waiting. So, I'm gonna head back to Tuchanka, whip my clan into shape, and knock as many heads as it takes to get them to stop being idiots."
Wow. "I think that's most you've ever said…ever." Part of Wrex's grumpy old man charm is his short, blunt responses.
"Yeah, I've been spending too much time around all of you," he replies with a shrug. "All it takes is a couple friendly conversations before you start spouting off your life story. I need a break from all the talking."
Wrex extends a hand and Zaira takes it, shaking firmly. He does the same to me and I do the same to him. "It's good working with you, Wrex," she says with a nod. "You'll keep in contact?"
"Probably," he shrugs. "Give it a couple months, then come visit Tuchanka. We can blow shit up and have some fun, I'll definitely need some relaxation time then. I think you'd like it there."
"Oh?" I ask, arching an eyebrow. "And what does that mean, exactly?"
Wrex snorts. "It means you're some of most vicious, violent humans I've ever met and Tuchanka is the same. You two are more Krogan than human…which is a good thing, because I doubt I would've stuck around as long." He rolls his shoulders, settling his pack in a more comfortable position. "Alright, time to get this show on the road. Shepard. Dewitt."
"Wrex." We both reply, watching as he stomps off towards the elevator, giving a brief nod before stepping and leaving our party. "And now I'm sad again."
"Me too," Zaira agrees softly, before clapping her hands. "But not that sad!" That said, she bends down, wraps an arm around my legs and heaves me up onto her shoulder like a large sack of potatoes. Besides leaving my ass sticking in the air, it also brings me face-to-cheek with her ass, so I can't exactly complain.
"Why?" I ask, debating the merits on giving her a good squeeze or a spank while she carries me to the Normandy. I'll wait a bit, and just watch her flexing booty as she walks.
"I want to celebrate, and it'll get you to quit bitchin' about you being sad," she replies, marching up to the door. "I mean, I'm sad too, but it's not like they're leaving forever. So stuff it, and then you can stuff me in a little bit."
Zaira punctuates her statement by giving me a sharp slap on the ass. I'm not a fan. "Whatever you say, Commander Handsy," I mutter, now even more tempted to give her a pinch.
"Captain," she hisses something, which is lost in the VI's voice as it announces that we're clean.
"What was that?"
"Call me…Captain Handsy," she murmurs, her muscles going taut and her arm locking around my legs.
"Whatever you say…Captain Handsy?" I reply slowly, wondering where the feeling of impending doom is coming from, and why I suddenly fear for my chastity…If I ever had any in the first place.
Zaira shudders mightily, releasing a quiet moan through her teeth. Did she just…? Really? By being called 'Captain'?! What kind of woman did I attach myself to?
She marches into the ship, her stride filled with intent, and is almost immediately confronted by an excited trio of Ash, Kaidan and Tara…at least it sounds like them. My vision is still filled with Zaira booty.
"Commander, you'll never guess what just happened!" Kaidan begins excitedly, pausing upon realizing that I'm thrown over her shoulder. "Uh…what are you doing to Saul?"
"Dragging me off to her lair to violate me repeatedly, no doubt," I reply boredly, giving in and pinching Zaira's left butt-cheek, making her jump slightly. "No. Please. You monster. Have mercy."
"What's the news?" She asks curiously, giving my ass another slap. I'm still not a fan. "Also, it's Captain Shepard, now."
"Oh, congratulations," he says, scratching his cheek. "Well, our news is pretty much the same. Ash got promoted to Master Sergeant, myself to Lieutenant-Commander, and Tara to Lieutenant. We also received invitations to The Villa, for N-Ranked training."
"Aren't you already an N2, K-K?" I question from around Zaira's butt, debating on giving her a little nibble.
"And I'm N5," Tara adds softly. "But, after all we've experienced chasing Saren, we think it's time to return. I think I'll be able to reach N7 this time."
Zaira turns to Ash, who doesn't look as happy as the others. At least, her knees don't. "What about you, Ash? Are you gonna take the invitation?"
"I don't know," she replies with a shrug. "The promotion was a long time coming, but this? It feels like they're rewarding anyone tangentially related to you, and that doesn't sit right with me. Kaidan and Tara definitely deserve it, but me? I don't think I've earned it, and I don't like it. I'd like to stick around, if that's alright with you?"
"Of course, Master Sergeant Williams," Zaira nods with a smile. "You're always welcome on my crew. I'm guessing you two will want passage back to Earth?"
"If it's not too much hassle," Kaidan says. "Are…you going to put Saul down?"
"Nope!" Zaira chirps, once more landing a smack on my butt. She ignores my growl of 'Woman!' and continues. "Well, it's a good thing we've got an assignment on Luna. What do you say to one last mission? We'll drop you off afterwards."
"Works for me," Tara replies. "The Normandy feels kind of empty, doesn't it?"
"Yeah," Shepard murmurs, sighing quietly. "Don't mention it to Saul, though, or he'll start crying. Again."
"I miss my friends!" I cry, sobbing loudly into my hands. I can hear Zaira mutter, 'Oh god,' before she slaps my ass again. "Woman, I swear, you keep spanking me and I'll take a bite out of your-!"
I feel another hand on my rear but it's a bit smaller than Zaira's and not much of spank, either, more like a pat. "Kaidan, what have we said about inappropriate touching?"
"What?! I didn't-!" He sputters, and I chuckle evilly.
"It was me," Tara admits quietly. "Sorry."
"You were gentle, at least," I sigh, kicking my leg. "Better than this brute carrying me. I fear for my chastity, noble archer! Please, save me from this brutish knight!"
"Alright, this is getting too weird for me!" Ash announces, throwing her hands up. "Whatever weird sex games you guys are playing, I don't wanna see it! If anyone needs me, I'll be in the Cargo Bay."
"Somebody's jealous…" Zaira stage-whispered, getting a quiet growl from the departing Master Sergeant. "Welp, later guys! I have a virtuous maid…maiden? Male-n? Whatever it's called, to defile!"
"Virtuous? My ass," Kaidan mutters, not as quiet as he thinks.
"Why thanks, K-K, my ass is indeed virtuous!" I call back as Zaira carries me down the stairs. "That wasn't an invitation, woman."
The bobbing of my head as she descends down the steps is enough to churn my stomach, not helped by her shoulder digging into it. This is a really uncomfortable position, nice view or not. I can briefly see the Med Bay as we pass, the lone figure of Karin inside, tapping away at a terminal.
…Dammit. I miss my friends.
The cabin door closes behind me and Zaira gently dumps me on the bed, standing over me with her hands on her hips. "Alright, seriously, your sad sighing is really killing the mood, Saul." Her lips twist in a grimace and she sighs. "I know you miss Garrus and Chloe, Nihlus and Wrex, but I'm still here, you know? I'm starting to think you like them more than me."
"Alright, first of all, I don't want to have sex with any of them," I reply, lifting a finger to make my point. "Second, liking them and liking you are entirely different things."
"Oh please, you can't say you don't want to sleep with Tali," she retorts, crossing her arms. "I want to sleep with Tali, and I don't like women."
Zaira, her arms entwined around Tali, one hand kneading her hip while the other rises to discard her mask, revealing pale grey lips and shining silver eyes that flutter closed as they lean in…"Stop distracting me!" I shout, pointing at her accusingly, "Yeah, I'd like to sleep with Tali, but that's not the point! It just…it feels like the end. The end of something great. Like it won't ever be the same."
"Well yeah, that's because it won't," Zaira replies, perching on the edge of the bed, "Everything that's happened…nothing's going to be the same. I think everyone knows that, and I think it scares them. But it's nothing to be afraid of, not for us anyways. It's like the beginning of a new chapter."
I pause in thought. "Actually, I'm pretty sure it's the end of the chapter. I think the next chapter will start when we reach the moon."
She arches an eyebrow at me, looking amused. "Now you're just being contrary," she turns and throws a leg over mine, straddling my waist. "If it is the end of the chapter, then it should go out on a good note, right?"
I lean up and kiss her firmly, one hand rising to stroke the back of her neck while the other drifts down to rest above her rear. "Definitely, Captain Zaira…" I stop mid-kiss and pull back, brow furrowing in confusion. "What's your middle name?"
Zaira tilts her head. "You don't know?"
"I mean, I know it starts with a J, but that's about it," I reply with a shrug, "What is it?"
"You show me yours, I'll show you mine," she counter-offers, planting an elbow on my chest and leaning on her fist. "I know it starts with a M, but for the life of me I couldn't find out what it was. I'm pretty sure it's 'Mystery,' or maybe 'Manly,'" Zaira chuckles.
She stops and blinks. "Wait, what?"
"My middle name is Marian," I reply with a straight face. "Saul Marian Dewitt."
Zaira licks her lips, her cheeks reddening. "Are you serious?" she asks, barely containing a laugh.
"Dead serious. It was my aunt's name," I say, smirking as her eyes go wide and she pales, "I mean, what she did was fucked up, I know that. But she was the first person who ever showed me that she loved me, twisted as it was. So, when I was choosing my new name, I made my middle name Marian, to remember her by."
"…Oh," she murmurs, biting her lip. "Well, mine's just my grandma's name. Jane. Zaira Jane Shepard. She was a nice woman, and apparently had a fantastic ass, according to my mother."
I give her a little squeeze, sitting up and bringing my lips down on her neck, and she moans in pleasured surprise. "I like yours better," I whisper, nibbling on her earlobe, "Where were we? Right, you said that the chapter should end on a good note, and I was saying…"
Reaching down, I grasp the hem of her shirt and pull it up over her head, tossing it away. Her skin is warm and soft against my palms, her chest flexing under my touch as her breath quickens.
"…Definitely, Captain Zaira Jane Shepard."
A/N: And here's a treat for all my readers on this, the day before Thanksgiving! I'm like the gift that keeps giving…eventually. And not on any reliable schedule. And I'm definitely not publishing this early because I was tired of not updating! No sir, how dare you accuse me of such things!
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this chapter, and you look forward to the next one, because that's where we get back into the action, and hit the final stretch of this story! I mean, we're already on the final stretch of this story, but that's the final final stretch. Shit goes down…and also up, because they're on the Moon!
Big thanks to NorthSouthGorem for editing and shit, also Austin, Chris and the boys on Xbox, but not Kurogane7. He wasn't here this time. D: But you should still give them a look anyways!
Happy Thanksgiving and all that shit! If you don't celebrate turkey day, happy…Wednesday? Hump Day. Everyday is Hump Day in a whorehouse!