A/n: I haven't updated this since February. My apologies for the delay in getting this chapter up. I was dissatisfied with ME2 as a whole and I think it's gotten me into a creative slump when I think, "oh yeah... ME2 happened..." But I do have this whole fic planned out, beginning to end.
Anyway, here's the next chapter.
If anyone had asked a young John Shepard what he wanted to be when he grew up, his answer would have always been the same:
He'd always wanted to do the best he could to make the world a better place. It wasn't so much about getting rid of the badguys as much as it was helping other people. He was doing what he'd always wanted to do.
Part of being a hero was talking to people, but admittedly, Shepard wasn't the most charismatic guy in the world. His lack of charm made his current predicament particularly terrifying.
"So, you've been appointed as the first human Spectre. What are your thoughts on that?" the reporter asked.
The question was straightforward enough. He could feel the supportive gazes of his ground team behind him as well as the attention of a growing, curious crowd.
"Well, I view it as a great opportunity to improve humanity's relations with the Council. It's quite an honor seeing that we made contact with the Council not too long ago," Shepard replied.
Al Jilani looked at her datapad for her next question.
"It's been said that you've been given control of an advanced human warship," she frowned, "Do you think it was appropriate to have it handed over to the Council?"
"Handed over?" he asked. "I wasn't aware that we'd been handed over to anyone. I still wear the Alliance uniform."
"But there is a difference between the Council's interests and human interests," she quipped, "They say that you're currently tracking a Spectre named Saren-"
"No, wait," Shepard interjected, "I want to talk about what you said about human interests. You see, there isn't a difference between the Council's interests and human interests. We're part of their community; we have an ambassador on the Citadel that mediates our needs to the Council. Races that have members of the Council are those that have shown that they can provide for others. The Council is feeling the situation out; if we show that we can care for others, then we will be given more power. With an increase in power comes an increase in responsibility. It's not just about humanity; it's about everybody."
"You really do believe that," the reporter sighed, "So what does this mean for your responsibilities? If you had to choose between Council interests and human interests, what would you choose?"
"There isn't a difference between humanity's interests and the Council's interests," he replied, "a situation like that will not happen."
"How do you know that?" Al-Jilani hissed, "How can you be so sure that we won't be abandoned in our time of need? Look at Eden Prime!"
"The attack on Eden Prime was an isolated issue," Shepard said, his face growing stern, "I will personally make sure that as long as I am alive, nothing like that attack will happen again. Even as we speak, various groups from the galactic community are providing aid to the people of Eden Prime."
"And they're not associated with the Council," she quipped, "the Council has yet to even issue a statement about Eden Prime, let alone provide aid for humans in need."
"I am that statement. I am that provision," he frowned, "If you want to continue to question my integrity, then look at what I did on Elysium before you try. This interview is over, Miss Al-Jilani."
Shepard and his crew departed amid a crowd of murmuring onlookers while Al-Jilani shouted about him being a shill for the Council. They rounded a corner and descended a flight of stairs to the C-Sec requisitions office. It was a place the reporter could not follow. Rows of consoles with holograms that could look up any available weapon or mod lined the room; their presence provided the Commando with a calming effect.
"Good day, Commander," the requisitions officer greeted, "what brings you here today?" He smiled in his turian way as he logged in to grant the newly arrived group the full line of stocks.
"A whole mess of things," he beamed.
Shepard set about the task of looking through the catalogs while his team browsed around. He ran a mental list of what everyone would need; thankfully, Spectre funding would go a long way in getting his team some of the best gear available. Ash still had her armor from Eden Prime, and though it was a standard-issue beginning set for her class, he knew that he could do better. Glancing to the side, he took in the sight of the newest addition to his team. Her armor was battered, like it had been purchased second-hand out of necessity.
No, his asari would have a good set of new armor. It would be comfortable and functional for her. His eyes wandered over to her again as she chatted with Alenko. For a second, he caught the Lieutenant's eye before averting his gaze to Liara's lovely bottom. Shepard frowned upon the realization that her armor flattened her out until she looked like she had the ass of a child.
Liara wasn't going to keep wearing that shit.
The Commander scrolled through lists of armor, trying to find the best kind for her. A frown spread across his face as different sets that weren't quite right passed by his discriminating eye. Shaking his head, he ran a search to eliminate excess armor from the list.
"Officer Vakarian," the requisitions officer's voice interrupted Shepard's concentration, "Do you need something today?"
"No," the turian replied, "I was hoping to have a word with Commander Shepard."
Shepard sighed and motioned Alenko to take over the armor shopping while he spoke with the C-Sec officer.
"I was wondering if you'd reconsider my offer," Garrus said.
The Commander's hand ran over his buzzed hair as he considered the man in front of him. Garrus Vakarian was known as a hothead of an officer that disagreed with his superiors often.
"Why do you want to join me?" Shepard asked.
"I want to make a difference," he replied, "I want to help you take that disgrace of a bare-faced turian down, nothing more. I don't expect pay either. Just give me a place to sleep and some food and I'll be happy with that."
The Commander nodded for a moment as he weighed the pros and cons of the situation.
"What are your skills?" he asked.
"I prefer long range stealth tactics," Garrus replied, "sniper rifles and technology are my main tools. I also have skills in vehicle repair." The turian crossed his arms over his chest, worried that the Commander would say no again. He'd be damned if he spent another day in C-Sec dealing more with bureaucracy than with real problems.
"Here's the most important question," Shepard nodded, "Can you follow orders and not act on impulse?"
The turian's eyes widened in realization; this was about the incident in the med clinic. Shepard's main concern then had been the hostage, but his had been the man holding the hostage. To Garrus, there had been no difference. He was fortunate to have an eye as sharp and quick as his impulse and he was very confident in his marksman skills.
"I'll have no problem with your orders, Spectre," Garrus replied, "Just tell me what to do and I'll do it."
"Then you're welcome to join us," Shepard smiled.
They shook hands, Garrus' large, taloned hand encompassing Shepard's. The officer's mandibles flexed upward, a gesture which Shepard had come to interpret as a turian version of a smile.
"I'll admit that until I heard what you said to that reporter, I'd assumed I wasn't allowed on was because I'm a turian," Garrus said, "You've got a refreshing view on the Council races."
He looked to the side and observed his new comrades. A human male stood at an armor console, flanked by two women. A shy-faced asari on his left clung to his arm and leaned into him while a livid human female pressed closely on his right.
"And I can see that your crew seems fond of aliens as well," he remarked as the male gave the asari an affectionate squeeze.
"Well, I think we're a fun bunch," Shepard chuckled, watching Ash shoot a death glare at Liara.
He walked over to the console to finish making the armor selection. The last thing that he needed was a catfight.
A navy blue pencil ran across a bare brow, leaving a trail of pigment in its wake. It stopped and floated toward the other brow to repeat the process.
Liara took a critical look into the mirror, making sure her penciled brows were even. She'd never been one to pay much attention to fashion, but there was something strangely satisfying about giving herself a little extra makeup here and there. It made her feel less of a child next to the doe-eyed, fawn skinned Chief Williams.
She wasn't a thing like Williams. Liara glanced down at her body, taking note of the differences between herself and the human woman. Her hands grabbed hunks of her rear and lifted it, just to see what it would look like if she were perkier. The asari shook her head at her reflection in the mirror and let go, the flesh returning to its regular place. She reminded herself again that there was nothing wrong with the body that the Goddess had bestowed upon her. She was normal and healthy.
Liara glanced into the mirror again and took note of her facial features, including her girlish freckles that hadn't disappeared as she aged. If they weren't gone by now, then she'd have to resolve herself that she'd be doomed with freckles forever. Liara prodded at the freckles, wondering how she could best cover them.
Her eyes drifted toward her right as she took in the sight of two sets of flowers. According to a note, the blue set of native asari flowers was from Shepard. He'd purchased them for her because their color reminded him of her skin. Had he known that they were a flower traditionally used in the burial of young children, he wouldn't have purchased them. Still, the thought was lovely.
The second set was of orange roses, a flower from earth; these were from Kaidan. She'd researched what the meaning behind orange roses meant and found herself confused. They symbolized emerging passion and desirous intentions. And yellow and red made orange; yellow roses meant that there was a cherished friendship and red ones meant passionate love. Did that mean he felt somewhere in between friendship and love? Or did he desire her like a human woman? But maybe she was thinking too hard about it. Maybe he got orange because he thought she'd like it. If he did, he was right; she was rather partial to orange, though yellow narrowly surpassed it as her favorite color.
Liara's eyes closed for a second as she remembered his scent and the taste of his lips. Kaidan was so kind and patient with her; he'd even helped her pick out a new set of armor. Williams had helped as well; they were both rather nice to her.
The medbay doors opened, snapping the asari out of her thoughts.
"Hey," Shepard smiled.
He glanced over to the table and saw a set of flowers next to the ones he'd given Liara. They had to have been from Alenko.
"Hello, Shepard," the asari beamed.
"I see you got my flowers," he motioned, "it's tradition on Earth for men to give flowers to special women in their lives."
So this meant that she was special to him?
Liara didn't have time to be elated before Shepard's lips gently captured hers in a modest kiss. His wound his arm around her waist, pulling her close. Slowly, they backed against the desk as their kiss deepened.
Liara scooted herself to the edge of the desk to sit, wrapping her legs around his hips. Shepard's hands trailed down her back; the Commander devoured her every kiss and returned them with intense fervor.
He suddenly drew back as the announcement that the ship would be leaving drifted through the comms. The baby-faced woman in front of him blinked; her adorable, confused gaze made Shepard want to kiss her all over again. And that was one hell of a kiss.
"Well, where did a sweet girl like you learn to kiss a man senseless?" Shepard smiled, wishing that Liara had some hair that he could tuck behind an ear. Her kiss had been one of the most intense, incredible kisses he'd ever experienced. And as he peered down into her innocent eyes, Shepard felt like he could kiss her for hours.
"Lt. Alenko was so kind to show me," she replied.
The Commander closed his eyes as a little voice inside his head told him that he'd effectively just found out that his friend was an awesome kisser. And now, every time he kissed Liara, he'd see Alenko's face in his mind's eye.
This ruined everything and he wasn't about to let the Lieutenant get away with it.