Sometimes, when the night is calm and the silence an oppressive master, Liara wonders what Shepard will look like when she is old; or rather how she would have looked if Lazarus hadn't swept her natural fate away. She remembers the realness of the woman's freckles, so similar to her own before Alchera, the scar that separated her fierce left brow, and the bullet shaped puckers and violent marks of a life in service to war on her long limbs and sculpted torso.

The face before hers, currently in slumbering quiescence, was altogether too perfect for such a story. Her own race bore the indignities of age well in comparison to others, but the dare she call it unnatural technology thrumming in her lover's veins would no longer suffer to bear even the most devastating record of her daring do. Such things were gone within the day if not the hour after the wreckage was tallied; after the wounding colored her fairness with a palette of crimson, and then after, the bruises of dusk.

She could guess, of course. Her dealings with Admiral Hackett detailed the march of time well enough, the vids of his youthful career providing her with enough before and after to make her heart sink at what laid in wait. Would Shepard be spared that slow decay? Would she simply pass with a sigh and a smile, face lineless; ambushed by time before she could finish her to-do list, before she could stroll into their home with arms full of groceries and that eternal cocky grin, sightless and breathless in their skycar?

It was a terrible train of thought to have on this day of days, the first day of the rest of their lives; but it was a bittersweet moment to behold, the having of another day at all overwhelming her with gratitude. The force of it fills her eyes with unwept tears as she stares at the wonder that is the person asleep in her arms, her lips parted with soft, sweet, living breath. It is a lesson imparted in verse and song for as long as the Asari have walked the stars, the transient length of their mate's lives a demarcation of the stages of their own, a rite of passage that changes them irrevocably, but mostly for the better. Mostly for wisdom. For some the pain is too great, dedicating their lives to noble purposes, forswearing future emotion in monastic devotion.

Before Liara can consider what she might do with those alone future days she wills herself to inner the thoughts are natural, she tells herself, they are also a looking forward that should encompass much more than the death to which they had both become so accustomed; a painful daring maybe that also held sunny days and fiery nights like the one that just ended in Shepard's bed. In their bed. On Earth. In a house Shepard built for her with her own hands.

Liara, excavator of long lost cultures, hoarder of exposed secrets and chronicler of what turned out not to be the fate of the galaxy puts away her words and her worries in a dusty chest with a rusty lock. Time enough for that and more, Liara thinks, and not today of all was for warmth and patience and healing...and more besides, if she had her way; though the drive she felt for it met the adamant wall of not until she wakes that had her watching the creep of light across the piled blankets and the dance of new snow against the window. So she remained still, their bodies entwined and her fingertips itching for a dragging pull against her lover's skin to remind her that they were here and not in one of her grasping dreams. To disturb her, now, after the galaxy had stolen her slumber for years untold would be the most unforgivable of sins.

Ending as most expectations do, which is to say the opposite of your heart's desire, she beheld a quickening of Shepard's breath, felt her chest widen and relax in her arms as she stirred, the tip of her tongue (that wicked wicked tongue) stealing out to moisten her lips before they parted in a warm waking sigh. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen, that simple thing, until the moment was immediately eclipsed by the fluttering of lashes and the revelation of emerald eyes focusing on her own. This, she thinks in her deepest deepest soul while she smiles, is what it means to be in thrall.

Liara's smile is answered with a sleepy curl of Shepard's lips and a luxurious stretch, giving her fingers the contact she craved, skin sliding beneath them of its own volition before her lover settles once more, closer, the tips of their noses touching while their smiles grow.

"Morning," Shepard says, the word spiced with an almost guilty delight.

"Good morning," she replies while doing her level best to keep her leaping heart inside her chest where it belongs. "Sleep well?"

Shepard's eyes unfocus then in quiet reflection before she answers, "I did." Not quite an exclamation mark there, but close, a muted embrace of an ever elusive normality. "How about that?" she says, the realization spurring a slow but joyous kiss.

"I have to warn you," Liara murmurs against her throat after sliding into her warm arms, "I may question the reality of this experience over and over until I believe it. Try to be patient?"

Shepard answers with a slow trace of fingernails along the skin of her back, the sensation forcing her eyes closed while it had its way with her. It made her want to cry, to scream, to laugh, a twisting of pent emotion beating at the walls of self-control.

"If we dream, may we never wake," Shepard whispered against her crest, and there they laid in silence for an untold time, the sun it's only herald until snow and fingers of ice crept up the windows. The air was chilling, the fire long spent, but the blankets were thick, a cocoon against the cold of the universe.

When Shepard speaks again it stirs Liara from a near doze. "What does someone actually do with a happily ever after?" she murmurs against her ear.

Liara lifts herself up on an elbow to look into her eyes, the other winding its way through non-regulation, unkempt, silky hair the color of sunset. "Well, I don't know about you, but I know exactly what I'm going to do."

Shepard's brow crooks with curiosity, her face brightening with mirth, "Oh yeah?"

She nods firmly, the memory of somber vows written on her heart steeling the unexpected jumble of nerves she feels at the proposition. "I am going to cook a human breakfast for you."

"Liara," she chuckles warmly after a moment of blank surprise, "You don't even cook Asari food."

She shrugs the way she had seen Shepard do when the answer should be obvious to all. "Blank canvas," she retorted with confidence. "Anyway, I watched Sergeant Gardner on many mornings. How difficult could it be?"

There was that smirk again, the one she wore when she waded into the absurd, blossoming as she lifts her frame up on an elbow to parallel their gaze, "You don't know where anything is in the kitchen. It'll take you a year."

Liara presses a kiss to her nose, "Good thing we have forever then, isn't it?"

Shepard laughs and it was all she could want, deep down to her toes. "Not with my stomach we don't," she argues playfully. "Tell you what, how about I help just this once? Then, if you feel the burning need for a repeat performance, I can sleep in."

And there it was, the very daydream that took on a stubborn, persistent life in her mind while she drowned in self-pity on a stranded Normandy. Still, she shouldn't allow herself to look quite so eager for the thing, should she? She has the grace to lower her eyes at least while she lies like a Volus with an unclaimed fortune. "Of course," she says with just the right touch of embarrassment, "If you think it's best."

Off they went then, one two three, enfolded in something called a robe that seemed hopelessly frumpy even to an isolated archaeologist, (though she must admit a grudging appreciation of its rather soft caress on the well earned aches and pains of previous passion) and down to the granite kitchen with clever lighting and well apportioned countertops and cooking surfaces.

There, they find one another again amongst the oddities of long separation. There, they talk about inconsequential things while Shepard educates her on basic ingredients and how to not burn herself. There, they taste the fruit of their shared labor from each other's fingers, unable even then to keep their hands to themselves. It is unhurried and fearless, a slow beginning, an acquittance of the terror that has lain burrowed into their very being since the warning of Eden Prime. They laugh and they love and their thoughts finally move forward, at least to the next hour or so, each moment still feeling stolen as if they are playing hooky; until Shepard finally demands payment for her services.

"What do you want in return?" Liara asks with a curious smile while the shadows at last begin to lengthen in the white outside.

"Well," Shepard says with an arched brow, "I've put all this work into the house, you see, but there's nothing to decorate the lawn."

"The...lawn?" she queries in confusion.

"Yeah," she says, dropping her chin into her palm, arm propped on the table, "There's a whole family of snowmen out there waiting for us to rescue them."

"Snowmen," Liara repeats without knowledge, eerily reminded of her awkward first few days on the Normandy amongst her very human crew.

Shepard smiles brightly and it warms Liara's heart. "Of course. We're heroes, right?"