Thank you all for being patient with me! I have a few more chapters left in the story, and then it will be complete. I am both sad and happy to be almost finished with it, because even though I do LOVE your comments...YOUR INQUIRIES AS TO THE NEXT CHAPTERS ARE DRIVING ME CRAZY!
So please my dear friends... Reviews on the chapters... NOT on the speed in which I write...
Chapter 20: Deafening Silence
Chapter Excerpt: "The Wall"
"Tali, I don't understand. What's happening? What can I...do!" Something wet dropped onto my forehead. He was...crying.
"I'm...sorry Alex..." I tried again. He nodded furiously, beginning to scoop me up. "Wait..." He stopped and looked at me, eyes sliding from feature to feature violently.
"No, don't say sorry...you're alright. Stop. Don't say anything. I'm going to get you to the Doctor, she'll help you alright?" He was so upset. I hated seeing him like this. This face of a boy who never got a real chance to just...be. The face of a teenager who missed his parents. And a face of a man, who knew he wasn't free. Alex. My Alex. I smiled at him gently, reaching up shakily and brushing his hair out of his sweat covered face. He took my hand and kissed it.
"...love...you..." An audible sob was choked in his chest and he leaned down and fervishly pushed his lips to mine. I savored it, opening my mouth and letting him in. He tasted like he always did. Smooth and Perfect. He kissed me again, and I smiled through it this time. Then the darkness swallowed me, and I fell...
Tali's Point of View:
"But what does Thane's son have to do with any of this?" Tali asked, moving over to her desk and sitting down. She looked a paler blue then usual. We were all a little...off center. It was not as if situations such as these present themselves often. It was as if we were living the lives of a character from the dramatic adventure books I used to steal off of Alex's bookshelf. I opened my mouth to answer just as a fist slammed down harshly on the door. I froze and Liara stood quickly, rushing over to the door and asking a sharp question of, "Who is it?"
The reply was slurred together and yet the voice came like gravel falling down the side of a mountain. My heart broke, cuts on it etching deeper into my core as the voice opened a painful wound within me. Though the reply was somewhat...childlike, it beckoned and tugged at my very soul: Begging me to answer it. Him.
"Open...Oopen! The door is closed...and I want to...in! Aww shit..." he replied.
"Well?" whispered Thane at my side. "Who is it?"
Liara opened her mouth to speak but I cut her off, my blood running cold through my veins as I answered in a pained whisper. "Alex..."
Thane's eyes widened for a split second before returning to his usual calm front. "Tali, you must understand that I cannot allow you too speak-..."
"I know." I interrupted, my heart sinking in my chest. "I know..."
"Tali! Do not be selfish!" Liara whispered angrily. "For all he has done for you! He can keep a secret! He can act as if nothing has happened. Thane's son will be fine. I will get the information you seek and we will save Kolyat. I promise you that nothing bad will befall-..."
"And I implore you once more, Liara! Do not speak to me as if I am trying to hurt Alex any further then the damage that has already been afflicted. I love him, and you cannot fathom the amount of searing agony I am in as I hear him this close..." I pressed my hand against the steel of the door and lay my helmet against it. "And feel him this close to me after so long, and not be able to touch him. But I cannot, though I want nothing more in this whole universe then to do so. Because Thane saved me and gave me the chance to at least get this far! I will not betray the faith and trust he has put in me."
"And what about the faith and trust Alex has put in you! Does it all mean NOTHING to you? Nothing in the slightest?" Liara nearly shouted, her words cutting through me as the venom of them bit at my suited skin.
Another harsh bang against the door. The vibrations he made traveled up my arm and I smiled in thinking that in a way, I had just touched him. "Just a minute," Liara called.
"Liara," finally I drew my hand back, walking to where she stood and leveling myself with her as I spoke. "Many years ago, I was with the Commander when we traveled to the sight in which you were working. We found you trapped. If we had left you there, Saren would have taken you and only Keelah knows what horrors would have befallen you there. Shepard was prepared to leave you, but as I am sure you remember, I was the one who convinced him to save you. To trust you and take a chance on you. So I ask you now, my old friend, take a chance on me...and please...do not speak of us to him. Hide us, and help us. But do not betray us. We've fought so hard to get to where we are now. Do not make it all a wasted effort. For you may destroy an innocent's life in doing what you believe is the right thing to do. Please..."
There was a silence in the air as she stared at me. Her eyes were cold and expressionless from years of practiced sorrow and intensity. Her time of suffering over Alex had broken her far more then I had previously thought, and I shivered internally when I realized that this kind of devotion only bore itself from one other emotion.
Liara had truly loved Alex. And she had watched him die. She had sold her soul to the darkest of Gods so that she might retrieve a body in which she never knew was truly him. Then when he was "reborn", he returned to her for a few fleeting months...until he found me, and left her. The cold taste of loss and betrayal had hardened her. And yet, though Alex had in a sense cast her to the side, her faithful loyalty had never wavered even a small amount. She was a true friend. And if she had it her way...I could tell she would be a true lover as well. The universe was not a kind place. And Liara T'soni knew this only too well...
Finally she spoke, her eyes softening as she strode by me. She pressed her hand against an electronic pad and a door slid open. She nodded her head, staring down at her feet so that she would glare at them and not at me. I placed a hand briefly onto her shoulder and I felt her trembling beneath my touch.
"Thank you..." was all I could muster. She didn't reply, so I hurried into the room, locking the door behind me. Thane stood cautiously away from me, body till slightly blocking the doors unlocking switch as if he feared I would not be able to control myself. Perhaps he was smart in doing so. I pressed both my hands to the door as I turned up the volume on my suit to hear what was happening on the other side of the door. I heard Liara's shuffling as she flew across the room towards the heavy doors that saved her and yet were her prison. The door groaned to itself as the bolts that held it firmly closed, were released. It sighed with a panicked relief as if slid open to no doubt reveal a disgruntled Alex.
My heart was beating so loud that I could feel it pounding in my ears. I begged it to quiet itself so that I could hear my love speak once more. I needed the soothing melody that was his voice. Needed it so badly that I sensed my self-control slipping as I felt the heavy footsteps as he walked into the room. The door was locked once more behind him. Liara was always one for safety.
"You know..." Alex began, belching as his steps fell out of time with one another, "YOU were the one who invited ME to be here. So, I find it real rude to have to stand outside you're shit door and pound away like a drunk ex lover that wants you back."
"Well, you are an ex lover Alexander. And, though I note this with great disdain, you are also drunk. Alcohol does not treat you well Commander; it never has." Liara's voice was soft, but there was no humor in it. I knew what Alex was doing; trying to charm Liara with words and jokes. He was a very charming man when he wanted to be. And though I had only seen him drunk once, I had a feeling that this sort of charm would do very little to sway Liara. She was a woman of high sophistication and class.
"You were always the really smart one LeeLee," he sighed. "It's real stupid of me to think that a guy like me could ever out smart you. I'm not a very smart guy you know. I mean I didn't need the smarts in the Alliance, you know? Just point and shoot. That's the best lesson I ever got taught in all my days of me..." Furniture released air as he sat himself onto it. I could picture him in my mind: arms spread over the top of the sofa, legs out straight on the footstool that was before him, and head lolled back as he shut his eyes to clear his mind. "But then again," he began once more, "maybe if I had been smarter, I could have become a doctor or something. Then I could have...maybe...oh Hell, I don't really know. Maybe I could have saved her."
Silence. Beat, Beat. More silence.
"You mean...Tali, Commander?"
"What?" she asked.
"No more Commander shit...just Alex. Please. It always sounded nice coming from you. Like you actually cared. Ha...silly...no one really does..."
"That's not true Com-...Alex... I cared. I...I care. You know I do. That's why I asked you here. Because I care. You have always been something special to me, and I know how your...loss...has hurt. As it should and as it-..."
"You know she used to do this thing," Alex interrupted, chortling darkly to himself. "She used to do this thing, when I would corner her on the ship and pull her too me. I'd hold her, and there would be this...blush that would just spread all over her face. Oh god Liara, I don't believe in Heaven anymore...but I swear...that she looked just like an Angel would. Wings and everything. She was my heaven you know..."
"Yes...I am aware..." Liara was quieter now.
"I miss her...Liara...every...fucking...second, of every fucking day. I keep trying to remember why I'm not with her right now. Why I'm not...dancing along the stars with her. I've thought about it too...just...letting it all go. Letting the dark take over and consume me. But then I'd hear her voice, you know? In my head. Scolding me. Ha! She was always scolding me. But I knew it was because she loved me..." He took in a deep and ragged breath. "The universe hold no comfort for me. I'm numb. Tired. I just want to drink and let myself slip into unconsciousness. Tali's ALWAYS there waiting for me. Smiling. Those silver eyes sparkling at me. The dreams never come fast enough, and the memories leave way to fast. It's like I'm stuck in this fucking place that's in the middle of the two things I want. The memories of her and the dreams of her. I can't quite touch either of them when I'm fully functioning. But...when I drink, it's as if their walls come down and they sort of...wash down around me. It's nice. Like dipping into a thing of water as a sun beats down on you. Calming. Gentle. Soothing. But...since their all mixed up...I almost find it disturbing to think that I'm unsure of what the dream it...and what actually happened between us. It all seems so real. Like she's right here with us, you know? Like she's nearby."
My heart ached and I pressed myself closer to the door.
"You shouldn't be talking like that Alex...it's not healthy for you. Thoughts like that. She's not really here...Well I mean...no. No-...she's not really here. You need to accept that. And believe that she's still watching over you at least. Waiting for...the right moment to present herself to you..." Liara's cryptic riddles were lost on the drunken Commander as my ears probed the emptiness between us.
"But...She seems so real to me...in my head. I'm really holding her Liara. I swear! She's really there...I can...I can feel her..."
"It would be easy you know; just to fucking end it all. No more obligations, no more lives to save, no more universe to save. Why bother? It's not as if the universe has ever done anything for me!"
"It doesn't work that way Shepard-..."
"It's never been on my side. My Mother? Father? Sister? Dead. All of them. My friends? Dead. The only person I've ever truly loved? Dead! All gone. All of them!" I could picture Liara flinching as Alex shouted about me. My heart went out to her. Here was the man she loved; shouting at her that she didn't care for him and that the only person that he's ever really loved...was me. I cannot imagine the pain Alex was unintentionally inflicting. "So tell me Liara! Why should I even bother with this fucking universe? It's not worth it! It never has been and never-..."
"Because it is your destiny to save this universe-..."
"DESTINY! Why the fuck should I give a damn about that? I decide my fate and destiny. I choose it! You know nothing!"
Only disturbed by the violent and sporadic breaths that Alex was drawing in and out.
"I think you should leave now," came Liara's strangled voice.
"W-what?" he asked.
"I said...I think you should go now. Get out. Get...OUT! Until you tame your temper, and until you realize that all is NOT lost in this world-that YOU are not lost, then I cannot be around you. If you want my shoulder to weep upon then you must be willing to listen to what I have to say even if you believe it will hurt."
"So that's it?" A hiccup. "You're done with me? Some fucking friend you are..."
"You know not what I am doing for the sake of friendship even as we speak...Commander. Now leave...before my request for you to go, becomes me throwing you out. Go back to your ship. Wash the booze off your skin. And clean yourself up. You are the Commander of the finest fleet in the galaxy, as well as the leader of one of the most important missions that life forms have ever come across. Take a cold shower, and remind yourself of thus. Good night, Alex. I hope to see you soon, when your current mission of self-implosion has ceased."
The door open.
The slam shut.
Three hearts sinking.
Then the silence...