A/N: Timeframe on this is about a year after Shepard's death.

Tela Vasir sighed as she disgustedly pulled off the front plate of her armor, wincing in pain from the bruises on her lower right side. She finished taking the armor plate off, dropping it on the thick carpeting of her Citadel apartment overlooking the Lower Concourse of the Presidium, and then managed to sit down before her legs gave out on her, sprawling back on a reclining sofa.

As she let the tension drain out of her, she aimlessly glanced around the apartment. Taking up most of the top floor of the extruded shelf of rooms that extended from the sloped walls of the Presidium, the dominating features were the wide armaglass windows that looked out onto the lower levels and the black marble wall that took up most of the living area, festooned with famous weapons of all kinds.

She flinched as she took in the shape of the warp sword at the center of the display – the weapon of her aunt Aethyta, Bloodwaves-Upon-Flesh, the only reminder she had of the woman who had literally raised her and cared for her.

The rest of the apartment was simplistic, if expensively furnished. No art adorned the walls. The kitchen was starkly functional, the bathing area's walls broken only by black shelves full of towels, and the sleeping area was a darkened alcove set into an armored niche and protected by dual kinetic barriers.

Vasir felt paranoia was simply judicious caution mocked by those too silly to understand the galaxy really was out to get you.

For long minutes she just lay there on the couch. It was difficult letting the stress, pain and frustration slowly leech out of her battered body, but with meditation she was able to so. She was very glad this mission strand was over.

After almost nine exhausting months, she'd hunted down and killed the vile owner of a slave ring that used batarian biotech to modify asari slaves into pleasure girls. Tracking him to the deep parts of the poorly explored edges of the Volian Traverse, she'd had to evade a number of assassins and most of a private army to even reach his base.

And, then, the sick bastard had blown up his entire slave compound rather than surrender, killing over two hundred young asari – some of them not even sixty years of age – and leaving hundreds more with blindness and horrific burns that would never regenerate, on top of mental and emotional damage.

The batarian himself, Vhelgok Nathri, didn't get far in his escape attempt this time, and she'd taken exquisite pleasure in using her biotics to rip sections of cartilage and tissues out of his body one at a time until he collapsed, a sack of leaking torn flesh that collapsed into a pile of blood on the ground.

The Council wasn't too happy with that, they wanted him taken alive for trial. Vasir didn't give a shit, the asshole had been getting his slaves from the Broker, and if that came to light it would start a large number of problems.

It was just one more thing in a long list of things that made Vasir seriously reconsider coming clean to someone about her part in Spectre Shepard's death. The fact that her made-up story of geth in the Traverse had probably lead Shepard to her death was bad enough…and then the Broker ended up killing her cousin Liara, and Aethtya as well.

It had taken all of Vasir's willpower to not kill the Broker herself at that point. Shepard didn't deserve to die that way, in the horror she'd heard described. And certainly Auntie Eth didn't, or Liara. It had broken her further than she already was, until some day she felt so disconnected from the why and how of living that she was little more than an automaton.

The VI in her rooms pinged. "The bathing room is prepared. You have nineteen messages, none urgent or that bypass the filter."

She grunted at the VI as she forced herself to stand, peeling off the rest of armor and tossing it carelessly about as she made her way to the bathing pool room, where she submerged her body in hot water and buried her face in her hands. She heard the nearly silent hum of the mechs that kept the apartment clean shuffling about, picking up the armor and beginning their repair and cleaning routine.

She envied the mechs in their clear understanding of their role and place.

Her life, all told, had been a series of unbroken waves on an icy, cold sea that bordered nothing but wastelands. She'd been a disappointment to her mother, who wanted yet another scholar instead of a wild, willful child – but Auntie Eth, when she had time, had delighted in her. There were times it seemed like only Auntie Eth cared about her, the rest were so wrapped up in business and what not.

House Vasir was once mighty, but had been humbled via bad business decisions and foolishly backing House T'Sael instead of House T'Armal during the Silent War, the hidden war of the Thirty scrambling for power in the wake of the fall of the Silent Queen. The loss of most of their holdings did not cripple their finances, but made them even more insular, cruel and perfectionist than other asari of the Thirty.

For a little girl who was more interested in smiles and history and watching the seashore, it was a brutal family to be born into, and more brutal to be different.

Her earliest memories of 'home' were of little comfort. She grew up on the cold, cruel slopes of Mount Asathien, the Skyneedle that Athame used to sew the cloak of the night sky. A hateful spike of icy rock, the city of Nathai was carved and hacked from the frost-rampant foothills into harsh, geometric shapes. No brown walls of comfort decorated the home of the Vasir, nothing but utterly smooth faces of polished granite towering six hundred feet into the air and over a hundred feet thick. Nothing had ever challenged the holdfast that was Nathai.

She was matched against her sisters and often failed, and was harshly belittled. She never understood then why everyone was so cold and hateful, or why when other Houses arrived she was shoved into back rooms and told to be silent.

When it became clear she was not suited to high finance or more scholarly pursuits, she was forcefully shoved into one of the Huntress Lodges near Serrice for a few months to pick up the basics of combat, then tossed into the Serrician Militia and forgotten.

Just as she didn't understand why her family (except Aethtya) was so cruel, she didn't know why they would toss her into the commoner militia back then – only later did she discover her ugly secret ,that her mother's bondmate was not actually her aithntar. Rumors abounded about who it could be – lewd ones suggesting Aethtya herself, alone after Benezia's running off with a turian, could have done it with her own sister. Others suggested it was Vanhi T'Soni, now the favored child of the House.

Tela never found out, but it was clear that she was pureblood and unwelcome. It was kept very quiet of course – no one outside of the House would hear of it – but it cemented her outlook on life at the age of seventy, when on her birthing day only Auntie Eth - spending thousands of credits to travel halfway across the galaxy and taking a break from her mercenary company to see her – even bothered to come by and speak with her.

She never forgot Auntie Eth's words. "They don't like you? Fuck 'em, kid. You be you. Never change, never bend, and never break. Either you'll convince them or you won't, but if you don't change you won't have to ask yourself if you have any value."

Tela had kept that concept as her watchword. Back as a mere militia huntress, she'd been scorned by her family, idolized at a fearful distance by the commoners, and rapidly grew to believe that everyone used everyone else.

She decided she did not want to be used, and made sure not to 'bother' her family in the long years since they flung her to the militia. After Tela grew up and became famous, of course, the Vasir fucking tripped over themselves trying to ingrate into her graces, and so did everyone else.

She tolerated them, but was as cruel and cold to them as they had been to her. The rest of her life was an unending wreck, no matter how well things seemed to be going. She excelled as a Spectre, but her personal life was in ruins. The one time she thought she'd found a lover turned into disaster when Thexius tried to get her to use her Spectre connections to help a turian separatist band. He'd nearly killed her and she'd had to kill him in self-defense, and his last words were to spit blood in her face and claim that she was too cruel to be loved, and that if she had been worth his love he'd have never used her.

After that, she was done with romance.

The linkage to the Broker had originally been an accident, and after long centuries of maintaining it, she was beginning to regret it. The most recent Broker was far crueler and more dangerous than the others, and his agents – Tetrimus, Tazzik, and others of that ilk – were disgusting criminals who delighted in carnage and terror and fear.

And now, of course, she was left truly alone in the galaxy. Her family was sunk into business ventures with the T'Soni and had no time. Her own cousin, and her most beloved aunt, perhaps the only person in the galaxy she actually loved, were brutally murdered by the Broker's people. Her Spectre partners were dead.

Her anger at the Broker had driven her to accept very few commissions, which was now beginning to pinch her finances and independence. So she ended up taking questionable missions like going after a sick fucking slaver and ended up with broken ribs, a pile of dead girls, and a headache.

She groaned, and then grimaced in anger as the commlink rang. "VI, I'm busy."

"The call is from the Consort, who is on your do-not-filter list."

Vasir rubbed her crests and grunted. "Audio only, please."

A few moments later, the voice of Sha'ira sounded into the wood-paneled bathing room. "I was told by my acolytes you had returned, but that your spirit was low and flickering, Moonbeam."

Vasir snorted, opening a bottle of crest gel and massaging it into the gaps in her crests. "You could say that. The mission was a clusterfuck and a bunch of little kids got killed because I wasn't fast enough….and didn't stop to think the fucker I was chasing was sick enough."

The soft voice was apologetic. "I am sorry to disturb your no-doubt self-recriminating reverie, but should I assume you need to … deal with things?"

Vasir leaned her head back until her crests met the backrest, letting gel clear from the gaps, removing dirt and filth. "… I need to get really drunk, and forget everything."

Sha'ira's voice tinged with worry. "I know that on some level you do not think very much of me, but I would … do my best with my words to bring you peace, if that would help. And my meldists are the best in the galaxy."

Vasir gave another snort. "Sha'ira, for a person you're very honest and open. The fact that I want to set the commoners on fucking Ilium on fire has nothing to do with you. And I'm sure your girls are just as trustworthy." She grimaced. "That being said, I think I need to stick to using the services of your non-asari. I have shit in my head I can't trust people with."

Sha'ira's voice dropped an octave, sounding darker and harder suddenly. "I understand…but I am not averse to the more … extreme options, if necessary. As much as I hate to admit it, there is a dancer and meldist in my current group who is working directly for P. I obtained the evidence this evening."

There was a long pause. "If you do not choose to indulge in her services, she's going to have an unfortunate accident in the next hour."

Vasir's lips thinned into a self-disgusted smile. "And people think you are so nice and fucking lovey." She ducked her head under the water, washing away the gel, and then wiped her face with the soft cloth at one side of the tub. "….yeah. She may know something useful. Set her aside; don't tell her who I am. I'm presuming you want me to kill her when I'm done?"

Sha'ira's voice was once again soft. "If it is not too much to ask. If you do not want to ruin your mood by killing, my own people can handle it.'

Vasir laughed. "Yeah, set it up. I'll come drink with you and listen to you tell me why I shouldn't kill myself after I'm done." She waved at the VI. "End call."

She let herself soak another few minutes before finally standing, and stepping out of the bathing pool. "VI, outfit nine, with the ballistic panels and the concealed shock darts in the boots. Have it set out with the silver-gray shawl of Aethyta."

The VI's voice murmured obedience as Vasir stared into the mirror, smiling bitterly at the reflection.

"How I wish you'd just die."