A young Jane Shepherd finds herself in C-Sec custody after being betrayed and left behind by the 10th Street Reds around the same time Liara T'Soni travels to the Citadel on behalf of her mother, Matriarch Benezia, to assist in the translation of newly discovered Prothean tablets. What happens when their paths cross and the good doctor finds that this scruffy, confusing human with the temperament of a varren has no trouble reading Prothean text?
A re-write of Commander Shepard and Dr. Liara T'Soni's story.
C-Sec | Presidium Embassies | The Citadel | September 7th 2174
The Presidium was as beautiful as Liara remembered it, bright and shining and all too reminiscent of her home world, Thessia. Bright white towers dotted the artificial skylines created by the ancient sky station's gravitational rotation. While the Citadel may have been built long before the technologically-superior Protheans, it had fallen into disrepair as all things did when the creatures that built them were no more. When the asari found it abandoned and empty, not long after their species had proudly achieved spaceflight, they'd immediately set to work on making the lonely vessel a touch more livable. Progress was greatly advanced when they were joined by the salarians some fifty or so years later, and the amphibious race had been content to let the asari inspire the aesthetic while they dug around in the real roots of the station. The curved architecture and vast pools of clear water made her feel like she was back home with her mother, having another 'discussion' about her future.
Being the daughter of a Matriarch was not a particularly easy life to live... particularly for an asari that felt more comfortable among fossils than she did people that were still very much alive.
It could have been worse, especially if for example her mother had not personally funded Liara's many degrees and years of schooling. After years of living in her mother's shadow, attending gala after gala Liara had finally found her voice and told her mother what she really wanted to study and what lengths she'd go to for it. Benezia hadn't even batted an eye. Within the week Liara was packing for her first year of graduate study, abroad. As in away from home. Far away from home, where the people were two-faced and every conversation was a game of strategy. Regardless of anything else her mother may have been, the fact that she allowed her daughter to find her own path and pursue her own interests was something Liara would always admire Matriarch Benezia for. Though their relationship was complicated, there was little Liara would not do for her mother… which was the whole reason she'd come to the Citadel in the first place.
She sat rather stiffly in a chair that was almost comfortable in the main lobby of the Executor's office and waited nervously for one of the many armored, fierce-looking turians to approach her and (hopefully) reveal themselves to be the longtime friend her mother wrote to her on behalf of.
Just a few days ago Liara had been operating alone on an abandoned dig site in a not-particularly-safe area of the human colony, Eden Prime, when her omni-tool dinged with a new message from her mother. Apparently, one of Benezia's contacts on Palaven had a healthy interest in Prothean history and had recently funded an expedition that turned up some interesting. Her mother had forwarded her some images of what looked like ancient tablets inscribed so densely the lines of text seemed to bleed together and even Liara's extensive knowledge of the Prothean language allowed her to understand only a few of the complicated symbols. From what she could immediately interpret, the texts were related to the Prothean extinction, her area of expertise. It was no wonder her mother had thought to contact her.
Despite her nervousness and the general feeling of abstract panic that afflicted her whenever she was surrounded by other people and not decrepit architecture, she couldn't wait to get her hands on the tablets. It had been a while since she'd found anything other than the remains of armories or basic residences; what she wouldn't have done to find a library, or even a government office! Anything to add another piece to the Prothean Extinction puzzle she'd spent decades trying to solve.
Liara took a furtive glance around the office one more time, finding that the other officers had vacated, leaving just her and the grumpy-looking turian filing police reports at the desk nearby. She eventually gave up on appearing patient and professional for her mothers contact and bent over to retrieve a datapad from her pack. Seeing as I'm the only asari in the area, I assume that he'll find me when he's ready. He asked me to come here specifically, after all. In the meantime, it wouldn't hurt to get a head start... Liara thought to herself.
At her request, Liara had been forwarded a basic case file, including details of the expedition and high-res snaps of the ancient text. She had been surprised to find that the expedition had taken place on Eden Prime, the very same world she'd been surveying. Part of her was slightly jealous that she had not been the one to find them, especially considering she'd been on the very same planet, but a larger part of her was simply ecstatic at their discovery. Whenever she came into contact with new evidence that could help paint the picture answering why the Protheans had so rapidly disappeared, and at the height of their civilization no less, she jumped on it. She poured through known texts and translations, hoping to catch a clue or a sign that someone else may have missed. That was of course rather naïve of her; if asari matriarchs that had already spent centuries studying the very same texts still weren't able to form supportable theories as to why the Protheans disappeared, it wasn't exactly logical to assume that Liara (with only a meager 106 years to her name) would be different.
That never stopped her from trying, though.
What kind of scientist would I be if I gave up after just fifty years of study? Liara mused as she tapped away at the surface of her datapad. She opened the files containing the images she'd requested and her screen became filled with obscurely hieroglyphic stone. Deep, spaphire eyes filled to the brim with scientific curiosity darted back and forth, and their owner willed herself to remain patient. She might not understand them now, but she would. She would do everything in her power to do so, and she was looking forward to the process immensely. Though I do wish I actually knew who I was going to be working with.
The turian she'd been put into contact with had yet to reveal their name or status within the Hierarchy. All she really knew about this strange benefactor was that they knew her mother on at least a business-professional level. She only allowed the 'at least,' because Liara, like any child, was not overly fond of thinking of her mother in any way that hinted at the... physical activity necessary for parenthood. Even asari were not free from that embarrassment. Still, Liara wondered about the origins of their relationship as curiously as she dared. Benezia was not famous for interacting with anyone unless it was for the benefit of the asari… or for herself. The intimidating matriarch was not above murder, trading with information brokers, and on one occasion Benezia had even blackmailed her own daughter into attending a series of painful social events that left her practically on her knees begging to go back to her last dig site. There was only so much false humility, bravado, and thinly-veiled insults an asari could take over drinks before she wanted to let out a biotic shockwave and flee out the shattered windows.
The material used for said blackmail was something Liara would never divulge. As both a scientist and archaeologist, she knew very well that some things were best left buried.
I can see why mother recommended me for this, Liara thought after she shook her head and refocused on the images in front of her. From what I can understand, these markings detail plans for mass amounts of stasis pods. Perhaps the extinction occurred over time, and the Protheans were hoping to outlast the effects? It could have been some form of disease if that was the case. From what we know the Protheans had military superiority over practically every other species in the galaxy at the time. They were also responsible for the destruction of a quite a few. It's unlikely that they would retreat or willingly go into hiding to avoid some sort of conflict. Then again, who's to say the pods were for the Protheans at all? Could they have been meant for a conquered race? The Protheans did keep slaves, maybe these pods were meant to house potential servants while the rest of the species' aggressors were eliminated.
However… these plans seem complex. Too complex for the purpose of simple containment... what would have been so powerful, so terrifying that it could send an entire species of technologically advanced militants into hiding?
Something caught her eye and Liara zoomed into a tight area of the tablet, her heart-rate jumping and her eyes lighting up as she found one symbol she could read immediately. The glyph depicted what most scholars would agree was a Prothean silhouette, with a streamline body and oblong head. Held between the silhouette's hands was a bright, glowing light. The suggestion of one, at least.
It was a symbol that appeared in a number of other Prothean carvings and texts, and for a few theorized reasons. The first was in relation to familial deaths, another (and less widely accepted) theory claimed that the Protheans would hold vigils for fallen soldiers once a war had been won, or a border dispute settled.
"The threat of extinction would certainly be a fair excuse for a vigil…" Liara mused. She was frustrated that the rest of the images remained unreadable no matter how hard she stared down at them. Fifty years of study and she felt like a child struggling to master her first picture book. A huff that bordered on childish escaped her, and not a moment later the sounds of a struggle made her glance up from the datapad.
The doors leading out into the Presidium, doors that she'd passed through not too long ago, opened to reveal an agitated C-Sec officer. His mandibles were flared and the angry red of his affinity markings seemed to match his mood. In his firm grip (Liara could tell even from where she was sitting that a more fitting word would be "painful") was a young human. Female. Her hair was long and loose, unusual seeing as most humans from the Zakera Wards (where Liara assumed she was from) either served in the military and kept their hair short or tied up. It was a dark brown color not dissimilar to the soft earth of digs Liara remembered fondly from lush, garden worlds. She wore loose, indiscriminate clothing that did not match any military faction Liara had knowledge of, and for all intents and purposes looked like the sort of person that wanted to be anywhere but in the eye of the public. Though Liara was not skilled at reading human facial expressions (the lack of crest somehow managed to throw off the readability of their features entirely), she could tell that this human in particular was trying not to incur any further rage from her handler. Even as she allowed herself to be pulled and pushed, the only anger Liara could see was in the clench of her jaw.
"Hurry up, you 10th Street trash! The sooner I get you in holding, the sooner I can go after your runaway buddies. You cretins have been dealing in my wards for far too long, and you'd better hope they don't get away or I'll be paying you another visit before the day ends," the officer hissed menacingly. "And I won't be quite as friendly then."
"If this is friendly, I'd hate to see how I treat your enemies," the human commented, forcing a grin past her discomfort.
"Did I say you could talk?" The officer shoved her forward with an aggressive shout. Liara watched on in minute horror as the human tripped over her own feet, unable to balance herself because her hands were bound in thick metal cuffs. She hit the floor with a crash, and Liara winced.
I knew relations between the humans and turians were bad, but that seemed rather unnecessary. Liara glanced up at the officer, disappointed to see that the turian was grinning smugly, arms crossed. He made no move to assist the fallen human. How unprofessional of him! Liara had thought C-Sec to be above such petty behavior. All the bitter turian did then was spit orders at the other turian officer sitting at the nearby desk terminal. Thankfully, this second turian seemed to share Liara's concern for the human, and showed an added bonus of disgust at his fellow officer's actions. It was a relief for Liara to see that not all C-Sec officers were as hateful as this newcomer.
"Pick her up and dust her off, Vakarian. Throw her in one of the holding cells. I'll be back soon, with two of her comrades in tow. We'll be trying all three for possession with intent to distribute."
When the officer left and the doors slid shut behind him, there was a tense moment of silence in the office. Then, the human spoke. "Asshole."
The human had instinctively turned as she'd fallen to let her shoulder take the brunt of the impact, and with the way she'd fallen Liara was able to get a good look at her face. Though human faces were still relatively new to her, she understood the aesthetics of symmetry enough to understand that this girl was reasonably appealing by human standards. She had a refined bone structure, a straight nose with pronounced cheekbones, but there was still the softness of youth to keep the edges of her profile safely out of harsh territory. She had those little arcs of hair that all humans had above their eyes (which Liara found incredibly odd), and the young asari caught the glint of metal near her ears (another part of human physiology Liara considered strange).
Liara wouldn't have minded if she'd been allowed to continue staring unabashedly, the human's face was pleasant to look at, but when the pair made eye contact from across the room Liara sucked in a breath. The human's eyes did not bore into her, they did not cut right through to her soul or anything dramatic like that, but there was something about them that instantly resonated with Liara. Though her cheek was smushed rather ungracefully into the cold metal of the floor there was no embarrassment, no discomfort in the human's eyes. Instead, there was defiance. A dare, almost. Those dark, alien irises did not ask for help, did not question why their owner was there on the floor.
Can I help you? That was all they asked. A sarcastic snap that would have been as readable up close as it was from across a room.
Instantly, Liara felt ashamed. She should help. Help the human up off the floor, at least. Her embarrassment only grew when the turian officer with blue affinity markings, Vakarian if Liara had heard correctly, beat her to the pass and rose to help the young human off the floor before Liara was even halfway out of her chair. "Damn you, Talid," Liara heard him mutter under his breath as he made his way over to the human. He crouched down next to her and paused awkwardly, seemingly unsure of where to grab her, before pulling her into a sitting position by her bound arms. "You seem awfully calm for someone accused of dealing Red Sand, kid."
The human narrowed her eyes at Vakarian, suspicious. "You and I both know I'm not dealing. You'd smell it on me. I may not know many turians, but I do know they can smell it on people. I also know they're a lot faster than I am on a good day. Running seemed stupid." She waggled her cuffs to emphasize her point. "Finch and Adams are just making it worse for themselves."
"Well yes, that's true." From there Vakarian brought the human to her feet. Despite her nasty tumble she did not waver. "But tell me something. You may not be dealing, but you are a Red. And Reds deal quite a bit of the stuff. Why get mixed up with them in the first place if you knew it was going to get you into trouble?" Vakarian asked dryly.
The human girl rolled her eyes, unfazed by the C-Sec uniform and glowing blue sentry visor staring her down. "Ever been to Earth? The Alliance doesn't take kindly to orphans until they're eighteen. By the time I hit that age, I couldn't exactly return the initiation tattoos."
Vakarian considered her words for a moment before nodding, mostly to himself. It was an answer he'd likely heard before. He then gestured towards the line of chairs that sat against the far wall, the same line of chairs that held a very uncomfortable asari scientist. His eyes passed over her briefly and, regardless of whether or not he sensed her discomfort, he escorted the human to a chair and waited for her to seat herself before returning to his desk. The human watched him go and called out to him before he'd even resumed typing whatever report he'd been working on. "Now you tell me something; shouldn't you be more inclined to believe your brother-in-arms before siding with some lowly gangbanger?"
Vakarian didn't miss a beat, didn't even look up from his terminal. "Talid is a racist prick that hates humans. He's also the reason I'll be stuck behind this desk for the next two weeks. On top of that, he's a terrible officer." He did pause then, and met the human's questioning gaze. The corner of his mouth twitched in what was almost a smile. "Talid was on patrol duty in the Spartan District today, which is where he found you, right? He was probably on his way back here when he caught sight of your colors and leapt at the chance to arrest some humans."
Colors? Liara's curiosity got the better of her. Liara chanced a glance at the human and sure enough, there was red and black ink marring the skin of the girl's right arm. The arm closest to Liara. The criminal implications of the symbol were lost on the asari, and besides she really was still much too far away to have gotten a decent enough look at it to find it's meaning on the extranet. With her face still turned towards the human, Liara risked another look at her face. She was relieved when eye contact was not made. The human was still looking towards Vakarian, allowing Liara to further study her face.
"So… if you can tell that I wasn't dealing is there any way you can-" the human began.
"Help get you off the hook? Unlikely. The last time I tried to call Talid out on his racist crap he reported me to our superiors and had me written up for insubordination. Two weeks behind a desk is quite enough, I'm not willing to risk four for a scrawny human even snippier than I am." Vakarian responded immediately, though he had stopped his typing to give the human his full attention.
"Fair enough," the human harrumphed. Her dark eyes began mapping out the room, possibly making note of feasible escape routes. Liara wasn't sure there'd be many, if any at all. When the human's head turned towards Liara the asari was quick to avert her eyes and return to her datapad. There was no way she was going to be able to pay attention to what was on the screen at this point, but the embarrassment tingling through her crest told her that getting caught staring would not be a pleasant experience.
Through her peripherals, she knew that the human was finally appraising her. She could feel the eyes watching her.
"Hey." The casual, one word greeting was still enough to elicit a small jump from Liara. Part of her dreaded meeting the human's gaze, not wanting to feel that accusatory, fiery glare directed at her again. She did however want to further study those dark irises, and she wasn't sure she was going to be able to do without the human noticing. Asari had bright eyes that matched their skin. Liara wasn't used to irises that almost seemed to blend into inky, black pupils. It was foreign, and captivating.
So with a deep, steadying breath Liara turned to greet the human with a shy smile. "Hello."
The human tilted her head, giving Liara a once over before nodding to herself and looking away. Liara blinked once, confusion narrowing her gaze. Was that it? I thought that surely… was she not attempting to initiate conversation? Liara opened her mouth to speak again, but closed it when she realized she had no idea what to say. Why am I even attempting to converse with a criminal? Reminding herself that the human, no matter how fascinating, was in fact a criminal allowed Liara to turn her attention back to her datapad. She resumed scrolling through the images she'd been sent, continuing to wonder about the meaning of the presence of "vigil" in the texts.
Liara jumped again.
"Wow, you're jumpy," the human said with a chuckle. "I'm all the way over here. I'm not gonna bite."
"I'm sorry! I didn't, well I certainly didn't think that you would… that would be-"
The human started shaking her head, lips turned up at the corners. It made Liara pause. That was a smile, if she was correct. Why was she smiling? Should Liara smile back? When the human's eyes met Liara's again there was no trace of anger or mockery. They were bright and filled with mirth. "It's a human expression. I have no intention of actually biting you at this moment in time."
"At this moment in time?" Liara asked nervously. The human stared blankly at her for a moment before Liara noticed the oddest thing. The round flesh of the human's cheeks actually changed color! Liara's eyes widened at the sight, wondering if it was natural for human flesh to turn even pinker than it normally was, and in such a concentrated area at that. "Are you… are you alright?"
"Hmm? Oh, yeah. Yeah I'm fine. Just, ah… forget I said anything." Before Liara could inquire further or get a better look at her flushed cheeks, the human abruptly changed the subject. "What are you reading?"
Ah, familiar territory. What a relief! Liara smiled and zoomed in to a particularly beautiful section of the etched stone. She then held up the datapad for the human's inspection. "Ancient Prothean text, actually. Though I'm afraid reading is a bit of an overstatement," she said sheepishly. When the human tilted her head again in that curious manner, Liara felt a pleasant warmth bloom in her chest. She wasn't sure if the action was intentional or not, but it certainly was appealing... at least when this human did it. The warmth in her chest emboldened her, and Liara continued on. "That's why I'm here you see, a friend of my mother's funded a dig on Eden Prime not too long ago… the human colony? I'm sure you've heard of it, although maybe I'm just assuming that because you're well, human. I hope you don't take that as an offense, I don't mean it to be."
The human shrugged her shoulders in a noncommittal way. "No offense taken."
"Oh good," Liara breathed out a sigh of relief.
"So… Prothean, huh?" Liara could tell just from the human's tone that she wasn't really interested, which caused Liara to deflate just a little. She was used to this however, the Protheans were valued mainly for the technology they left behind. Modern study of their history and extinction was not widely respected or valued, but that didn't matter to Liara. It was what she loved, what fascinated her. What did matter was the fact that this human was at least trying to be interested. Not trying to appear interested, but really trying to be interested. She was even using her dark, inquisitive eyes to study the datapad Liara was still holding up. It only further encouraged the warmth in Liara's chest, which was (without her full comprehension) blooming in other parts of her body the longer she studied the human's fine features. Human skin was so fascinating to her; it was imperfect and unique to each human. Such varying colors! She knew that human skin betrayed age in a way that was completely unique to humans, and the concept of scarring was something asari were not familiar with. Asari skin molted when it was torn, remained as smooth as it was since the day they were born. Liara had heard of humans with scars as long as their limbs, as deep as the wounds they used to be.
This human didn't have anything quite so awful, but Liara did notice a fine white split in the hair above her right eye. The eyebrow, I think it's called? What a funny word.
"What are reapers?"
Liara froze. Her mind went blank.
"Reapers," the human said matter-of-factly. She was looking at Liara now, her eyebrows drawing together, surely in response to the shock on Liara's face. Her voice grew nervous as her cheeks once again became darker. "…why are you looking at me like that?"
"I-I'm sorry…" Liara couldn't keep the shake out of her voice. "I'm afraid I don't… how should I know? Reapers? I've never heard of such a thing before."
The human looked confused for a moment, before coming to the incorrect conclusion that Liara was joking. "Very funny. No offense intended Doc but you're not a very good scientist if you've never even heard of what you're studying."
What? But I just told her I study the Protheans, what does she…
The thought never had a chance to fully materialize before Liara tore her eyes away from the human, who was now sending confused glances Vakarian's way. He could only shrug in response, watching the whole exchange with an expression that for now seemed amused but was quite capable of turning into suspicion. Liara held the datapad in both of her hands now, staring down at the screen and waiting for something to click. All that stared back at her were the Prothean hieroglyphs, ancient, confusing.
In an instant, Liara was up out of her chair and crossing the room. All the human had time to do was look up in mild terror as the asari came hurrying towards her, not the feared-for-your-life sort of terror but the kind you feel when your hundred-pound pet varren is barreling towards you at the end of a long day, ecstatic about your arrival.
"Can you read this?" Liara's voice was loud, incredulous. Her mind was attempting to process the situation and what it could mean for not just her research but the study of the Protheans themselves. "Right here, tell me what this means!" She shoved the datapad right under the human's nose, almost hitting her in the process, and ignored the look of panic the human sent the turian officer who was now standing up at his desk.
"Yes, yes I can read it! Can't you? You're the one that studies this shit, right?!" When Liara gave no answer, no indication of even hearing her questions the human acquiesced and looked to the datapad. "It says, 'the reapers will destroy' and then… 'the vigil will endure' and…" Liara watched as the human's forehead creased and her dark eyes narrowed. "That's… weird. I could, I was able to-"
"What?" Liara cut her off, dumbfounded by this unprecedented occurrence.
"A second ago, that made sense. Now it just looks like a bunch of… kinda reminds me of the Egyptian pyramids. What're they called, hieroglyphs?" The human tried to scoot further back into her seat, away from the datapad. She flashed Liara a nervous smile, discomfort clear in her posture. "Weird shit, Doc. Do they always do that?"
"No." All forced signs of humor died on the human's face at the tone of wonder in Liara's voice. Her blue eyes were wide, staring at this bizarre, fascinating creature before her. She wasn't sure how, she wasn't sure why, but somehow this human was able to do something no scholar in the field would likely ever be capable of doing. "You can read Prothean." Her tone was awed, words airy with disbelief.
The weight of that statement was lost on the criminal, who continued to shoot the confused turian officer silent requests for assistance with her eyes. This asari was very much in her personal space, and being from Earth she had little experience with being this close to anything that wasn't human. She wasn't sure if this was how all asari acted, or if this particular one was just slightly off her rocker. "And… you can't?" She tried, hoping that this was all just some weird dream sequence that she'd wake up from if she just played along.
"No one can!" Liara raised a hand. She reached out and traced the curve of the girl's cheekbone with her thumb, barely noticing the slight flinch it elicited. The human was warm, solid beneath her hand. Not an illusion. Not a dream. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest, fire in her bloodstream. "There isn't a single person alive who can understand Prothean without reference and existing translations… except you. What's…" her voice cracked, so Liara cleared her throat and tried again. "What is your name?"
The human stared at her for a moment and Liara realized with some surprise that her irises were not a uniform color. Amazingly, there were streaks of green cutting through brown a few shades lighter than her hair, and Liara was instantly captivated by them. They were not friendly eyes, mistrustful and suspicious, but Liara still thought they were beautiful. So much brighter up close.
"It's Shepard. Jane Shepard. Shepard to you. Now could you kindly get out of my face?"
Liara flinched, wounded by the sharpness in Shepard's tone. But then she looked down, saw how she was very much on top of the human, practically in her lap. Her hand was still on the other girl's face as well. With a sharp intake of breath she flew backwards, dropping her datapad in the process. "I'm so sorry! Forgive me, I didn't realize I-"
"Yes?" Thanking the Goddess that someone had come to save her the embarrassment of having to continue her interaction with Shepard while shame boiled in her blood, Liara turned to the owner of the voice. When she realized who was addressing her, her jaw dropped. "...Spectre?"
Standing just a few feet away, waving away the enthusiastic salute he received from Vakarian, was Saren Arterius. Veteran of the First Contact War, the youngest individual to ever be granted Spectre status by the Citadel Council, a legend. And one of the deadliest creatures in the known world. This is my mother's contact? His eyes were steely and his expression was a few degrees colder than neutral. "Is what I just heard true? This human can understand Prothean?" No one in the room missed the disdain in the Spectre's voice when the word 'human' passed his lips. Liara could only nod, frozen in place by his penetrating gaze. He regarded her silently for another moment. "I see. Vakarian?"
"Yes sir?" Vakarian stood even straighter if, that was possible.
"Fetch me the Executor. From what I understand, this human is a criminal. But if what Dr. T'Soni claims is true then she'll be of more use to me outside of prison than in it." Saren stepped forward, approaching Liara with calculated steps. "Your mother speaks quite highly of you, doctor, so I shall trust your judgement. If you deem the human necessary, say the word and I shall have her released under my authority."
Liara looked to Shepard, who was staring up at the Spectre with an even mixture of true fear and distrust in her multi-colored eyes. As famous as he was for his skill and flawless record, Saren was more famous still for his unarguable dislike for the human species. Shepard clearly knew what he was and what he was capable of doing to her if she incurred his wrath.
She can't go to prison, Liara knew in her heart. She's a scientific wonder. I need to know how this is possible… but if she doesn't go to prison, where will she stay? That was a question Liara couldn't answer; she wasn't even sure what her own situation was going to be while she translated the etchings for Saren, neither the Spectre nor her mother had given her many details about the work. It was an uncomfortable feeling, having someone's fate placed in your hands. Especially a stranger's. How could Liara be expected to make such a decision? It may have seemed an obvious choice: tell the Spectre that Shepard was needed and keep her close… for research purposes of course. But what if Shepard wanted no part of it? She was surely already disturbed by not only Liara's inappropriate behavior but by the discovery of her new talent, maybe it would be kinder to just leave her out of it and-
"Doctor." The Spectre's voice did not convey patience.
"Yes!" Liara panicked and answered before she was ready. The room was silent. "Yes," she continued in a meek voice, realizing that there was no going back. "She is… necessary."
"Very well. Vakarian, the Executor."
Liara heard Vakarian's answering "Yes, right away," and the heavy sound of Saren's footsteps as he left the asari and human alone to sit in tense silence. To distract herself from the weight of the situation, Liara leaned down to pick up the datapad she'd dropped. As she straightened, her eyes landed on the handcuffs keeping Shepard's hands bound. Then, after a moment, they found Shepard's.
If Liara had been expecting anything to be in that multi-colored stare, it was not something she received. The only word she could use to describe Shepard's gaze was wary. Shepard merely watched her carefully. There was no anger at having her fate taken into someone else's hands, no fear of the now-uncertain future, nor was there relief with the knowledge that she would not be going to prison. Liara knew from that stare that Shepard would reserve judgement for now, that she was perhaps as unwilling as Liara was to imagine the possible ramifications of this meeting. Liara was surprisingly grateful for that.
"I'm not sure if I should be thanking you or cursing you for this, Doc." Shepard finally murmured.
"I… am not certain which you should be doing either, Shepard." Liara responded shyly.
Eventually Shepard smiled, and in that very moment Liara knew that her life was about to take an interesting turn indeed.
'Allo all. Taking a break from my other works, beat all three Mass Effect games in the past month so now I have Mass Effect on the brain.
Deal with it.