A/N: Sooo, I'm finally outing myself. I published this to masskink anonymously a few months ago and someone suggested that I make this available elsewhere, so I have. Now heavily edited! This is pure, unapologetic PWP. If that's not your thang, don't read this or it will offend you. :) This will go up in 3 parts. Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: Mass Effect is Bioware's masterpiece.

Shepard wove her way through a sea of writhing bodies, the bulk of them hot and reeking of sweat; the ambient illumination of Afterlife ignited her as well as the crowd around her in a burst of violet-pink vibrancy as the acrid smell of batarian burned in her nasal passages. The unsightly creatures were everywhere on Omega—the droves around her consisted of the largest population she had ever seen of them in person.

She hated being on Omega.

She hated the idea of Omega.

She hated the people on Omega.

Shepard hated Omega.

Unfortunately, being on Omega was what it took to gain Aria's favor, so the commander had, on occasion, dropped by to run a few small errands. This was one such occasion. The majority of T'Loak's tasks were small, petty things and had, of course, not been asked for by the asari directly—and this time was no different. Each and every job was more of an annoyance than a challenge and Shepard suspected that they were more to test her patience than anything.

When Shepard found herself in the unpleasant situation of having to be on Omega, of having to deal with the asari, it was normally a get in, get out kind of a thing— but this time the asari had insisted that she stick around and have some "fun" for once, the bitch pointing out her stiff and "constipated" military-esque stature and seeming lack of interest in her club.

It was a distant thought, but Shepard could recall the smug smirk tugging at the asari's thin lips upon the suggestion, the entire scene playing out a little like this:

Thane had stood a ways behind her, his posture alert, and his arms were pulled tightly behind his back. He had been both willing and ready to take action in defense of Shepard given only a sign. This procedure was standard—neither of them trusted anyone on Omega.

The batarian—Garka, was it?—had nodded at Shepard with an air of familiarity that she had wanted to smack out of him though she'd returned the gesture, the commander content that it had probably looked quite frigid. She'd at once sought out eye contact with Aria, the asari's usual air of despondent disinterest something that had immediately been absorbed.

She had never let the asari intimidate her, and to make this clear, Shepard had taken a seat more near to T'Loak; she had leaned back fully and had positioned herself in a way that would show Aria that she was entirely at ease in her presence. Body language was always important in these situations.

She remembered thinking that Aria was pretty hot for an asari, her unusual features almost masculine and leaving her exquisite facial structure with a particular bitchiness that Shepard had found herself aching to muster. The asari was powerful, her presence something that would raise the hairs on the back of any lesser being's neck, and Shepard wanted that. The commander needed that on her side.

There had been a tense silence as Shepard had pretended to examine her armored hand, the gesture decidedly nonchalant, and the fact that Aria had even allowed it had been proof enough that she'd gained some ground with the evil bitch. Shepard had found a guilty pleasure in testing the waters with the typically irate and domineering Omega queen and had found herself smirking despite the inconvenient situation she'd found herself in.

She had looked up at Aria, confidently brushing hair out of her eyes, and had dared the Asari to speak first.

"So, Shepard, I see you took care of the—"


"And the—"

"Sure did."

"And what about—"

"It's taken care of."

Aria's laugh had rang out like the sounding of a bitter bell, dark and unsavory, and Shepard had smirked back at her in response, the casualness that had been displayed by the commander effortless.

"Well done, Shepard." Aria had leaned back and crossed her legs, looking over at the commander seated next to her with a predatory gleam in her eye. "There may be a place for you here, after all. Why don't you grab a drink, join the party?" She had leaned forward then, her face mere inches from Shepard's. "You're not fooling Omega—you look like you have a stick up your ass." The last of this had been delivered with a cold sneer and Aria had gone back to feigning interest, looking away from Shepard and at nothing in particular.

Gaining Aria T'loak's trust was and had been a lengthy, enduring process—a process that Shepard had found herself quickly tiring of. Had she declined the asari's invitation, it would have been an insult, a set back; if the bitch wanted to see her dance, she'd dance.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm on it." Shepard had gotten up from the couch and turned to leave, her poise authoritative; she'd brushed against Thane's shoulder purposefully, catching his eye as she'd placed a foot on the stairs descending into the club before Aria spoke to her again, which had caused Shepard to pause and look back at her.

"Why don't you rid yourself of that filthy armor while you're at it," more a statement, a demand, really, than a question. Testing her trust, her relaxation, her boundaries…the asari enjoyed the same game Shepard did.

Of course it was unreasonable, but what about Aria wasn't?

And so, that was how she'd found herself in a skimpy, leather one piece suit, courtesy of the trashy elcor market down the lane. She looked like Miranda, and goddamn, she needed a drink.

She'd ended up on the dingy dance floor of Afterlife, easily within T'Loak's penetrating gaze, absent of both weapon and armor. Regardless, she did not feel vulnerable; she was confident in her biotics as well as her hand-to-hand capabilities, not to mention more than aware of Thane's watchful eye, as well as Aria's want to keep her around for a while longer.

Shepard was perhaps more safe from attack than a heavily armed krogan stomping through the financial district of the Citadel.

She was being grabbed and clawed at, but she went with it—her dance was timed to the music and she lost herself in it, the ability to ignore the needy paws gracing her scanty form increasing. The commander had ended up dancing with one of the more persistent ones, an eager batarian; she'd kept her blue eyes on his black (though she was careful not to offend him), the man's slanted, beady set pleading with her, his appreciation of her body open.

She had tolerated him for a few minutes, her body striking a rhythm to the imposing nature of the beat, until he'd tried to get a little too fresh, his hands gripping at a barely clothed breast and his stubby nose sniffing at her hair uninvitingly.

Under any other circumstances, there was no doubt to Shepard that she would have broken the offender's wandering fingers, but Aria was testing her, and the commander never failed. As it was, she had simply swung her hips and spun around, the commander shaking his arms from her as she trotted off to the pounding of music she didn't quite care for and sought out her lover, the bar, and another round of alcohol.

When Shepard broke free of the crowd, she sighed out her relief. She searched the smoky bar with a purpose, her gaze finally landing on perfect emerald skin and soft obsidian eyes. As she sauntered towards him, her heeled boots clicked and clacked gallingly against the floor's metallic surface and she, for the umpteenth time, seethed at Aria for being such a bitch.

It had been years since she had worn anything on her feet even remotely elevated from the ground, and it put a bitter taste in her mouth; yet another reason to drink. How much had she had already? She'd lost count, but Thane would know; he always knew. She trusted he'd stop her when she'd had enough.

She took the stool next to him and he smiled at her, his expression teasing. She knew that look perfectly well.

"Are you enjoying yourself, Siha?" He had to speak louder in order for her to hear him over the noise.

Shepard looked away from him with a huff and signaled to the bartender for another drink. She plucked out strange blue fruit from the clear, condensation covered glass with a thin, pink straw and shoved it into her mouth. She was ever the lady. Strangely enough, the alien food had the texture of watermelon and tasted kind of like a coconut if it were covered in lemon juice. She liked it.

Not facing him and around a mouthful, "Oh yeah, having a real blast here. How you doin'?"

"I can't say I don't appreciate the…view."

Her ample cleavage was fully exposed, the cat suit running a silver zipper all the way down her crotch and a little past it. Of course it was only unzipped to her ribs; she was classy.

She snorted and tilted her head back, gulping down the fruity drink in one swallow. Well, that was direct. She was proud of him. She glanced over at him as she placed the cup back down on the bar and saw he was leaning on its sleek surface with an elbow, head cocked and resting on the palm of his hand.

"This leather is suffocatingly hot," she began.

"Indeed," he interjected, mindful of the innuendo.

"I don't see how you do it," she finished, smiling at him ever-so-lightly.

"Years of practice, Siha."

Shepard made a face at the drell and ordered two more drinks, one green and one pink, and she took the former in her hand and sipped at it, scooting the latter over in Thane's direction. He really needed to loosen up a little, but he ignored the glass, as expected.

"Did you see that hands-y batarian?" Of course he had, she only wanted to hear him say it.

"Ah, the one whose fingers I'd like to break one by one?"

She chuckled warmly in between sips, pleased that she'd had the exact same thought as it had happened.

"Yeah, that one." Shepard knew that Thane was far too restrained to allow himself to do such a thing to the batarian for trying to cop a feel. She took the hand his cheek wasn't resting against in hers and intertwined their fingers. She loved how widely her middle and ring digits had to spread in order to accommodate his fused ones.

"You should drink that and come dance with me and protect me from the big bad batarian." She looked at him in wistful sarcasm, coy, and then added: "It's strawberry champagne."

A burst of flavor flickered across his tongue, tart and sweet, the alcohol burning down his throat in a manner that was decidedly pleasant; his eidetic memory recalled perfectly the beverage Shepard was trying to press at him, the actions of that night between them flashing in his mind and effectively clouding it, threatening for him to relive every minute detail. He felt a little drunk for a moment, but he pushed the feeling down, and in effect, the memory.

She would be the death of him.

He observed Shepard carefully as she removed her hand from his and got up from the stool, his siha walking a few steps that were undoubtedly calculated before pausing to look over her shoulder at him, and then she sashayed away, hips swaying in a manner that was mesmerizing due to the heels he imagined she despised.

Thane turned away from the bar and stood up, leaving the drink Shepard had ordered unattended. The drell casually straightened his jacket, brushing it off in an effort to do away with any dust that had gone astray and landed on him; he then leaned back on the bar behind him, propping himself up by his elbows, looking out for Shepard as she worked her way back through the crowd.

Shepard had once again dazzled her way to the center of the expansive ocean of bodies, her movements overtly sensual; her head was thrown back, her curious hair flicking about in response to her constant beat driven motion. Her body twisted, Shepard maintaining a sharp rhythm, and her lips were parted. She seemed as unaware of the visual she was creating as she was of the attention she was attracting.

As he watched her, the memory she had shrewdly brought to the forefront of his mind mere minutes ago teased at him again, the taste of what she called strawberries prickling at his tongue, bringing forth yet another memory that frayed his nerves. It made him thirsty.

He acted quickly, decisively, and with a deft hand, he grabbed the wine glass and emptied it entirely of its contents. He rolled the last mouthful about on his tongue and was surprised by the taste, his face scrunching up and his throat expanding slightly; it was not at all what he'd remembered, the flavor of it completely undesirable. It was bitter, caustic, and he cringed at the after taste it left in his mouth. She never would have talked him into it if he'd known it would taste this horrible.

Thane heard a pounding in his ears and felt a tickling at his spine, his eyes watering and mouth drying as if he'd accidentally taken one of the strange cotton balls his siha sometimes cleaned her nails with into his mouth and chewed on it for a prolonged period of time; he felt his knees weakening and he sat down onto a stool near him, the dark leather of his pants squeaking against the shiny material of the seat, and he braced his hands on his knees, breathing coming out in quick bursts.

He felt…ill. Unwell.

He needed to find Shepard.