2285. Citadal, T'soni-Shepard Apt
There was a thirty second calm before the storm when Charlie opened the door to the apartment, and after fumbling for a moment to find the light switch, turned it on with a small sigh of frustration only to be ambushed in the worst possible way that didn't involve bullets flying over her head, or god knows what else.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY 100TH BIRTHDAY SHEPARD!"
They crawled out from behind tables, the couch, and even the closet. The entire living room filled with the worst sort of enemy that Charlie could have imagined in her lifetime. They surged towards her like husks, relentless as geth, and nearly annoying as the krogan she'd encountered during her years as a frontline soldier, but far, far more dangerous and difficult to kill.
Party guests. The whole damn lot of them. Half of the remaining original Normandy's crew, a few from the second Normandy, and what was left consisted of some friends she'd made during her time on the Citadel. Charlie grit her teeth, hand trembling, still holding the doorknob. She felt Liara's hand on her shoulder, squeezing it comfortingly.
"Liara…I am going to kill you." Charlie readily assured her, turning to face her bondmate with a dark look she reserved for only her worst enemies.
"and this is the day you happen to take my pistol and amp for a retooling. I haven't hated you this much since you planned our 50th anniversary… and I'm still thinking of how to get you back for that surprise party."
Liara wrapped her arms around her lover's neck from behind, dotting the back with grateful kisses, hands moving to massage the tense shoulders.
"Charlie, it's your 100th birthday and everyone wants to celebrate it with you. Try not to incapacitate anyone for me tonight? For me? Please?" Liara begged in a sultry voice that made Charlie go weak at the knees. Stifling a growl of annoyance, she nodded dully.
"Yeah….sure…for you… and the girls… where are they anyway?" Charlie scanned the room for her daughters.
"Well…Rowena and Ariel are supposed to be getting a cake…." Liara said, smiling sweetly at Charlie's second dark glare.
"Then where's Gwen? I haven't even gotten a vid from her in days. Too damn busy with her commando training to drop her ol' dad a line once and a while? Sheeesh. I wrote you at least once a week when I was on deployments."
"Yeah..something like that…" Liara said distantly. She pushed her lover into the living with a biotic nudge, chuckling at the human woman's threats under her breath.
Charlie pouted, walking into the room with a fake smile plastered on her face. The mountain of presents on the kitchen table nearly made her do a double take. Anderson, now gray haired and in a wheelchair posed proudly with Ashley, she too graying but still upright and proud, alongside Joker who gave a little wave.
"Hard to believe those two hit their fortieth anniversary huh?" Liara murmured, as Shepard began poking the gifts for any hidden explosives. Tali and Kal Reegar were there, with Grunt and Wrex talking in an animated fashion with Garrus about the probability of an assassination attack and the joy that the upcoming battle would be. Miranda, Jacob, Ken, Gabby, Kelly, and surprisingly enough even Jack had turned out for the occasion.
"Hell Shepard, this isn't a party without the booze! I've been waiting for an hour here! Your girls and too damn slow for my taste! I could have just had Kasumi steal some on her way here!" Jack, although 90, from what Shepard could determine from her classified dossier, was still as loud, tattooed, bald, and violent as ever.
"Hey… where is Kasumi anyways?" Shepard mumbled, going over to shake Ashley's, then Anderson's hands. She rewarded Joker with a slap on the shoulder, while he loudly protested his poor, brittle bones.
"Hey hey hey! Now I have even more of an excuse to be brittle!" Joker laughed, rubbing the place she'd struck him with mock indignation.
"Yeah right. That didn't stop you from having four kids, Monreau." SHepard fired back with a smirk of her own.
"You mean the kids I pushed out, Skipper." Ashley retorted with a smile. Joker rubbed the back of his head, laughing weakly.
"Well I…..had sympathy pains." Joker said with a smile. "Really bad ones."
"Joker- shut up." Ashley ordered, leaning down to kiss him on the lips. Joker broke out into a huge smile, gently pulling her into his lap.
"Ok… I'll just go before this turns into one giant love fest…." Shepard said, feeling the flush of embarrassment on her face. Liara looped an arm through hers, and began pulling her to do another round of meet and greet with her party guests.
"Quite the party Shepard, however the lack of a cake is most upsetting." Miranda pointed out, relaxing in a chair by the window, with Jacob equally comfortable beside her. Gripping her arm crutch, Shepard slowly lowered herself into a seat across from them, wincing slightly.
"Tell that to my girls when they get back. Honestly, I do not understand how they could get lost here. Take the elevator to the financial district, pick up the cake and come right back. I had it ordered ready made over a month ago!" Liara said, sitting next to Shepard, oen hand put gently on Charlie's bandaged knee.
"That old wound still bugging you Commander?" Jacob asked, looking down . She dismissed it with a wave of her hand.
"After everything I've been through a bump on the knee is the least of my worries." Charlie focused her gaze on the starry sky outside.
"I miss our place on Illum. The Citadel is great, but nothing beat raising the girls there. We should have stayed after they graduated from school."
"Gwen was only 60 and Rowen and Ariel had just turned 40 Shepard. Hardly a place for children."
"But Illum is the hub of the Asari." Miranda pointed out, taking a sip of wine with a raised brow of curiosity. "I couldn't think of a better place to raise my children."
"Illum I didn't want the girls to grow up on that backstabbing world much longer." Liara whispered, thinking back to her years as the Shadow Broker. Thankfully, Feron had been a fine replacement for her, and Shepard was glad when Liara finally turned over the reigns of the information network to her drell friend.
Everyone turned as the door opened and two young Asari, twins came in carrying a large white cake with the frosting spelling out 'happy birthday Shep! Galaxy's greatest hero!' in bright blue lettering, with the N7 and Spectre logo's elegantly done in the frosting as well. Charlie stood slowly, reaching for her cane as she crossed the room slowly.
"Happy birthday dad!" Her second eldest daughter by fifteen minutes threw her arms around Charlie's neck, squeezing tightly. Rowen looked a lot like Liara, but minus the freckles and darker in color. Charlie chalked it up to having Tela Vasir's tinge of blue. Her youngest daughter Ariel, although identical in appearance to Rowen had the personality of a mouse. Small, quiet, and booksmart like Liara, she'd already gained entrance to the most prestigious university on Thessia, and aimed to match her mother's expertise on thee protheans- her speciality would be the connection between the Protheans-Collectors and their ties to galactic civilization.
"Happy birthday, Charlie." Ariel smiled warmly, enveloping Charlie into a tight hug, and squeezing. Charlie smiled, embracing her youngest child, and kissing her atop the forehead. Ariel beamed, knowing that her father's affection came from something deep within, she was seeing the real person, not the military commander, and one of the galaxy's greatest heroes. The guests began drifting towards the massive cake that Rowen was setting down on the table. Liara went to Charlie's side, and put both arms on Ariel's shoulders.
"What took you so long, Ari?" Liara scolded. "You've kept the guests and your father waiting for over an hour!"
"I'm sorry, Mom…" Ariel said sheepishly, rubbing the back of her head. "But we ran into someone…"
"Who?" Charlie demanded, snapping to attention. "That stupid human boyfriend from C-Sec? If he's threatened you I'll blast him back too-"
"No! Oh and Charlie, don't think bad about Stuart, he's a great guy! He's been to dinner twice already!" Ariel pleaded.
"Twice is too damn long in my book." Charlie huffed. Liara touched her arm, whispering soothing words into her ear in a comforting tone.
"We had to pick up a present at the last minute!" Rowena murmured, passing out plates of sliced cake and pouring alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages out. Charlie opened her mouth, but was suddenly struck by a blue blur, arms wrapped tightly around her waist.
"G- Gwen….?" Charlie looked down at her eldest daughter, dressed in the uniform of a asari commando in training, and was so shocked she nearly dropped her cane. Gwen had the darkest tone ofh the three, with a smattering of freckles, and Charlie's dark brown eyes. She'd applied herself militarily, instead of taking the academic route of her younger sisters, pushing to become a famous commando and possibly a Spectre like her famous father.
" I wouldn't miss this day for the world, dad….Charlie." Gwen whispered, burying her face into Charlie's shirt, still clinging tight. Charlie blinked owlishly, and turned to see Liara, whose eyes were moist as well.
"I….Gwen… I missed you so much. Really, four months and no letter? How could you do this to me? To your mom?" she felt tears prick the back of her eyes. The young asari shrugged sheepishly, and blushed.
"I'm sorry…but with training an everything…I forgot…but I swore that I wouldn't miss your 100th birthday, so I wanted to make up for it, really! Three months of shore leave! We've got a lot to catch up on."
"Indeed." Charlie whispered, hugging her daughter close. "I was so mad the day you left for training…I didn't want you to become like me. Nothing but years of fighting….traveling, never settling down."
"But you did. After the Reaper war, you and mom settled down here. I mean you still had Spectre duties, but the galaxy became a lot less active after uniting for the Reapers."
"They were bickering in about three days." Charlie argued back with a smile.
"Dad, lets not argue…." Gwen said with a playful laugh. "I'm happy to be home. Gonna cry yet?"
"That's for your mother to know, and trust me, we'll be having a long, long talk about this later on." Charlie affirmed, stealing a backward glance at Liara, who was filling up her wine glass. Liara gently tapped the glass, urging for quiet.
"Today is Charlie's 100th birthday. We all know what kind of woman she is, a warrior, a diplomat, and the love of my life." Liara 's eyes were moist, a fear tears slipped down her cheeks. "I love you, Charlie, and all of us here today love and respect you, and even those who are not with us today do so as well."
Charlie felt her throat constrict. She thought of Jenkins, Kaidan, Mordin with his brief lifespan, and Thane, subccombing peacefully to his disease, Kolyat by his side. From the corner of the room, Dr. Chakwas raised her glass beside Liara's.
"To our Commander, savior of the Citadel, and the Galaxy's greatest hero. May the next century be just as good, if not better than this one! Cheers, Shepard."
The resounding sound of clinking glasses and congratulations could be heard. Charlie finally pulled herself away from Gwen's grip, and managed to nab Liara by the punch bowl, grabbing her around the waist.
"As a Spectre, I can punish you for doing this to me." Charlie purred dangerously in Liara's ear. Liara turned, smiling beautifically.
"But you're not. I know you too well Charlie. Tell me, did you like it?"
Charlie thought about it for a moment. " Yeah I did. After fifty years you finally got one on me. Satisfied?"
Liara pressed her lips against hers, drowning out her reply. Charlie kissed her back, relishing the fact they'd be alone together, so she could really show her proper gratitude.
For a brief moment, all was right in their perfect piece of forever.