Eternity's Last Embrace

Chapter One

Disclaimer:I do not own and am not profiting from any of BioWare's intellectual property. The Mass Effect setting, story and characters all belong to them. The rest is mine.

Notes: This story is set around Liara as she reminisces about Shepard. As such, the timeline does jump about a bit, but in a mostly chronological order. The Shepard in this story is based on my FemShep, Commander Kristen Shepard – paragon, spacer, sole survivor. I try to mention her first name as little as possible to help individual player immersion but it does come up where appropriate. There is another reason for it as well, and that will quickly become apparent.

Chapter Note: This story will contain three chapters. Chapter One relates of the first Mass Effect game, Chapter Two to Mass Effect 2 and so on.

Warning: This story does contain detailed scenes of a mature nature between an asari and a female human. For you non-purists out there, that's female/female smut. If you're of a fragile disposition, don't read on. Otherwise, enjoy!

Citadel Station, 2399.

"Shepard..." The name was uttered with such painful reverence, as if the mere mention of it would invoke a torrent of painful memories.

For Liara T'Soni it did just that, but so much more as well. She was reminded of all off the blissful history the two of them had created together, the recollection enough to spark familiar sensations within her consciousness. But they were only echoes now. Echoes of a person who had once been a part of her. Even after so much time had passed, the sheer sense of loss - the feeling of having such an important part of her missing - was almost overwhelming. But today, of all days, she could not escape it.

Shepard Memorial Day. It was a time to celebrate the many great deeds of the human who had saved the galaxy from annihilation on more than one occasion. It was the one day in the entire year where different species could come together and celebrate beside one another, to be thankful that they still had a place in the universe. That was the idea, anyway. Reality was rarely so idyllic. For the first few decades the event seemed like a picture of tolerance and acceptance, but as time wore on the sentiments of the past faded in people's minds. Now it seemed like merely another excuse to stumble down to the nearest club and drink oneself into a stupor.

Liara let out a slow, pained sigh. Imagery of a familiar face haunted her wherever she went on Citadel that day and she found herself wondering, for the umpteenth time, why she had chosen to come to the station during this month. She shook her head slightly as she walked along one of the busy shopping promenades. It hadn't really been her choice. She'd agreed to meet her daughter here, an appointment they always seemed to make at this time each year.

She couldn't help but pause at a particularly striking hologram of a stern looking Commander Shepard posing almost heroically in her N7 armour, arms folded defiantly across her torso. Liara could feel a twinge of pain in her chest but she smiled faintly at the image nonetheless. Even in Liara's sadness, and in Shepard's absence, the strong-willed human could still bring a smile to her face.

Taking in a deep breath, Liara continued on her way. She refused to let the sorrow control her. It had been almost a century since Shepard's death and she should have come to terms with that long ago. It was the way of her people, after all. Anything else would prove her weak. But grief was an unpredictable and cruel mistress, and it would occasionally leave the asari shaking and breathless at moments when she least expected it. She could be perfectly fine for years and then, all of a sudden, she could encounter something that triggered a visceral memory within her. Perhaps it was their joining that had left such an imprint upon her psyche. Whether this was normal after committing to one person for so long or not, she wasn't sure. Her mother had never spoken of such things so Liara had concluded it must be a defect on her part.

After such thoughts, however, she'd end up chastising herself. Shepard would hate to hear her say such things about herself and she realised it was only self-pity fuelling them. Liara hesitated before rounding the corner that would lead to a cosy little eatery that had opened up in recent years. Her daughter would be waiting for her there and she had to contain herself before they met. Medora had become rather good at noticing when her mother was feeling unsettled.

Liara ran slender fingers down along the smooth fabric of her dress, pushing out any creases that may have formed at the front of it. Some things hadn't changed very much over the years. Her attire was still fairly reserved, almost formal, and never inappropriate. She'd seen a number of young asari dress provocatively but that had never been appealing to her. Taking in a few steadying breaths, Liara moved towards the meeting place, feeling a little more in control of her emotions now.

The small dining area sat nestled between two large boutiques that were selling vast arrays of interstellar fashion. A plain plaque was perched above the entrance to the eatery, displaying the name as: The Gastronaut. If truth be told, she had only tried it out because she thought Shepard would have found the name amusing but she had enjoyed the food so she returned whenever she had reason to visit Citadel Station. Scanning the short rows of tables, she quickly spotted Medora sitting alone, her attention focused on a datapad.

Liara slowed her pace so she could watch her daughter for a few seconds longer before her presence was noticed. Medora's skin had taken on a slightly redder hue as she'd matured and it now appeared closer to purple than Liara's blue. Ruddy markings streaked across her forehead and the side of her face, making her look quite distinguished. Her eyes, whilst still blue, were much paler than her mother's. Almost like Shepard's, Liara found herself thinking but shook the thought off. That was silly, asari didn't take on physical characteristics of their 'father' species. It was something she and Shepard had joked about after Medora had been born and they'd often amused themselves pointing out any supposed human traits.

Even though Medora was physically asari, she had taken on some of her human mother's personality quirks. She was headstrong, sometimes obstinately so; she had a strong sense of her own moral compass; she would often let her passions get the better of her too, proving to be far more hot-headed than Liara had ever been. Sometimes these sides of her personality had brought her into direct conflict with her parents but they had always worked things out as a family. Unfortunately, Shepard's death and then Medora's subsequent choice to train as a huntress had distanced mother and daughter. This was something Liara regretted deeply but these annual meetings had helped to make amends.

As Liara stepped into The Gastronaut, Medora's gaze flicked up and a smile pulled at her lips. Liara returned the gesture and moved between tables to slip into the seat opposite her daughter. The two sat studying one another in a friendly silence, both seemingly looking for any signs of change, positive or not.

Eventually, Liara chose to break the silence. "Hello, Little Wing."

Medora's eyes darted from side to side and Liara assumed she was checking to see if anyone had heard the use of the pet name. It wasn't something Liara had ever intended to use but it had just slipped out as she spoke to little Medora one day. At first, she had been mortified at her use of it but Shepard had insisted there was nothing wrong with it. It was a 'tip of the hat to Benezia', as the Commander had put it. Truthfully, it was one of the things Liara fondly associated with her mother so she had continued to use it. Still, Medora now found its use embarrassing.

"Mother..." the young asari muttered as she shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

Liara merely smiled serenely at her daughter before moving the topic onwards. "How are you?"

Medora's demeanour swiftly changed and the nickname was soon forgotten. "I am well. My training is moving forward at a fair pace and I should be assigned to a polity soon."

A sense of pride swelled within Liara at her daughter's progress. "That is good to hear. Tell me, have you befriended anyone yet?"

She could instantly tell that the question had not been particularly welcome as Medora's gaze dropped and she turned her head to one side. Liara had long known of her daughter's trouble with other people's attitudes, not only the asari's. She was the daughter of one of the most famous soldiers in the galaxy and a pureblood asari. It had not been particularly easy on her when she was a child and she didn't seem to be having an easier time now she was into adulthood.

"Medora..." she murmured the name gently, attempting to coax her out from her shell. That was another thing she'd seemingly inherited from Shepard; her defences.

Pale blue eyes flitted up to peer at Liara, reluctance pulling Medora's features into a frown. The older asari waited patiently, knowing better than to push her with words. Before long, Medora spoke. "Sometimes I feel like I'm not a real person to them."

The admission tugged at Liara's heart. She hated seeing her daughter suffering, even if it was on a social level. "I know, Little Wing. They expect great things from you because of..." she trailed off, knowing her voice would break if she said that name again.

A crease appeared between Medora's eyebrows now and she studied her mother closely for several long seconds. If she wondered what had caused the shift in Liara, though, she didn't ask. "They aren't just expecting me to be capable of the impossible. They... ostracise me. They treat me like I do not have desires of my own, like I have no feelings."

Liara raised a hand to cup her chin as she thought on it. "I do not think that is out of maliciousness. Perhaps they are intimidated by you?"

"I've heard this before," Medora said quickly as she shook her head.

"Do not dismiss it so quickly. You have a fairly impressive heritage behind you, even if all asari do not see it that way." Liara didn't need to mention her own pureblood nature for Medora to know what she meant. "Most of the huntresses you train with cannot boast such a thing."

Medora let out a quiet sigh and waved a hand dismissively. "Even if that is so, it doesn't change anything. They're still treating me poorly."

Liara frowned. "I'm sorry. I wish there was something I could do. If your... if... Shepard were here, she would know what to say..."

A hand on hers stopped her before she could be enveloped by that sudden grief again. Medora grasped Liara's fingers between two hands and squeezed. It wasn't as if she was going to fall apart and start bawling in the middle of the dining area but Medora somehow still knew how shaken Liara was today.

"Enough about me. How are you doing, mother?" Genuine concern laced Medora's words.

"I am..." Liara paused as she considered putting on a brave face for her daughter. "I am well."

Medora quirked an eyebrow at her. "You aren't fooling me."

Liara let out a short laugh. "Nor myself," she said wryly. She closed her eyes for several moments before looking upon her daughter again. "It's just a difficult day. I can't seem to control the... flood of memories."

"It doesn't help being here, does it?" The question was rhetorical but Liara shook her head anyway. "I'm sorry, mother, I should have been more mindful of where I chose to meet."

"No, no, it's fine," Liara protested. "I shall handle it."

Medora seemed to hesitate for a moment before speaking. "Do you... want to talk about it?"

Sensing her daughter's awkwardness, Liara pulled out of the tight grip on her hand and leaned back against her chair. "No need, Little Wing, although I do appreciate the sentiment."

The younger asari leaned forward in response and lowered her voice as if she was about to share a great secret. "I was... wanting to discuss certain things."


Medora pressed her lips together and her brow creased as she pondered her next words. "I want to know more about her."

Liara's eyebrows rose in surprise. "What do you mean?"

Tilting her head to one side slightly, Medora continued. "All I knew of her was the woman I grew up with. I want to know more about her. What was she like before I was born? What was she like against the Reapers?"

The idea of going over those memories didn't appeal to Liara at that moment and she could feel the muscles in her chest tighten uncontrollably. "I... there are many vids with that information."

The annoyance was clear in Medora's next words. "I don't want to know about the legend, mother. I want to know about the real woman."

"Shepard..." she found herself pausing after voicing that name again. "...she was not all that different to the mother you knew."

"Really?" Medora relaxed into her chair again, increasing the distance between them. "For one, why do you always refer to her as Shepard? It's so... formal. I rarely ever heard you say her first name. Is it not a human custom to use the first name when you are close with that person?"

Liara could feel her body slumping forwards and she had to steady herself by placing her forearms on the table in front of her. She allowed her head to loll forwards slightly as she attempted to answer her daughter. "It is hard to explain. That was something I only used when we were alone together. I was so used to calling her Commander or Shepard due to the environment we were in and then to use a name that no one else addressed her with... it was strange, intimate."

Medora sat in silence for some time as she processed her mother's answer. "You both met because of Saren, right? What was that like?"

"You want to know about the conflict with Saren?"

A shake of the head told Liara her assumption was incorrect. "No, what was meeting her like? What happened? You have never spoken of it."

Medora wasn't wrong. She had never discussed it with anyone. Her time with Shepard was extremely precious to her and also extremely private. She had never felt comfortable sharing that with anyone, even her own daughter. Perhaps that made her a bad person but she couldn't change the way she felt about it. But, she realised, it was probably time she changed that. Medora deserved to know the real Commander Shepard after all. The person behind the legend. Parenthood had changed Shepard somewhat, as had the lack of adventure in their lives. She'd also spent quite a bit of time away from home as she was called away on Spectre and Alliance business. It hadn't been easy to begin with, both of them had been pulled into diplomatic duties they'd never even considered before.

"The day I met her, she saved my life..."

Therum, Artemis Tau Cluster, 2183.

Liara huddled behind a pillar, the sound of gunfire echoing all around her. She squeezed her eyes shut as dust and debris from above tumbled to the ground, occasionally grazing against the skin of her face. She cringed as a Geth tumbled into view, a surge of power coursing through its body before it lay perfectly still and lifeless. What was she doing cowering there? She should be trying to help the people that had come to rescue her.

It was all so overwhelming though and she was having a hard time processing all the information. It didn't help that a battle was raging around her at the same time. The grunt of the krogan battlemaster reached her ears and she wondered if that meant he was getting annoyed or he was enjoying the fight. A shuffling to her right almost sent her sprawling out into the open in shock but a steady hand on her shoulder held her in place.

She looked up to see the one who identified herself as Commander Shepard giving her a lopsided grin before adjusting the grip on her rifle. She was human, that much Liara recognised. She knew very little about the young species, however. All her time had been spent studying the Protheans. From what she had heard and read, humanity were a wasteful species that were all-too-eager to put themselves in harm's way. They were also supposedly self absorbed and only cared for their own needs. This Shepard woman seemed to shine some doubt on that assumption though.

Her shoulder length auburn hair was looking somewhat dishevelled after the fighting but she still held a kind of elegance that intrigued Liara. Was it her soldier's poise, perhaps? Or maybe it was the aura of leadership that seemed to radiate from her. It wasn't something she had ever come across and if they got out of the dig site alive, she might even look into it further. She watched as Shepard peeked around the pillar before being met with a hail of gunfire. The human flinched as debris flew up into the air.

In the next moment, Shepard ducked out into the open space beyond the pillar and returned fire, forcing the krogan back into cover. Liara had to admire the woman's courage, although she wasn't sure if it was just plain recklessness at that point. The asari sucked in several deep breaths, the smell of dust and something metallic assaulting her nose, attempting to ready herself to join the fray. She'd had to defend herself in the past but not from anyone nearly as well trained or competent as a battlemaster. She refused to cower any longer though, not while a group of strangers were risking their lives for her.

Bracing herself as she waited for a break in the gunfire, Liara clenched her hand into a fist and concentrated on summoning up enough energy for a biotic field. Fear and apprehension swirled in her gut but she forced herself to ignore it and placed her left palm against the pillar as she twisted. In one swift motion she stepped out into the open and raised her other arm, ready to send out a blast of energy to slam into the krogan.

Just as he slumped limply to the ground.

"Oh," was all Liara could say.

The tumultuous tremor of rock and metal around them seemed oddly quiet without the sound of gunfire to accompany it now. Liara quickly scanned the room, noting Shepard and her team seemed to be unharmed. A glance from the Commander was all it took to launch the other human, Williams, and the quarian they were with into action. They checked over the geth and the krogan quickly to ensure they wouldn't be attacking them from behind.

Shepard hurried over to Liara, her watchful grey eyes on alert for any dangers. "You okay, Doctor?"

"Y-yes, I am uninjured."

Without a pause, Shepard placed a hand against Liara's back and urged her towards the area exit gently. "We need to get out of here, the place is coming down whether we're here or not."

The asari nodded and launched herself into a run as a particularly large tremor rocked the ground beneath them. Her heart thudded noisily in her chest as she attempted to keep her footing, the task becoming more difficult as they got closer to the dig site entrance. The other members of Shepard's team shot past her, their own survival instincts pushing their bodies into overdrive. She realised she'd spent too many years in cramped conditions, toiling over the minutest of details with archaeology equipment.

Her legs weren't cooperating in the way she wanted them to and she almost stepped straight under a girder as it crashed into the walkway in front of her. If it wasn't for the firm hand on her upper arm that held her in place, she would have taken the full force of the metal beam. The Commander's close proximity to her had saved her life. She gasped for air as the near-death experience made her skin prickle uncomfortably. There was no time to dwell on it though and she was urged forwards by that same firm hand.

The rest of the frenzied journey out of the collapsing site went by in a blur. She wasn't even sure how she managed to avoid all the debris and missing parts of gangways. She just knew that by the time she reached the safety of the exterior of the site, her lungs felt like they were going to burst. Each strained inhale of air hurt and her knees felt as though they would buckle at any moment. It took all her effort just to stay upright. A brief glance at Williams caused her discomfort to increase further. The human looked like she'd just returned from a leisurely jog, not from fleeing for her life.

How pathetic do I look to these aliens?

"Everyone okay?" came Shepard's curt voice.

"Aye, Commander, all ship-shape here." Williams responded almost enthusiastically and the quarian, Tali, merely nodded.

All eyes moved to Liara now. "I am alive. Thanks to you." She tried to sound grateful but the gulps of air she had to suck in between words made that difficult.

Shepard offered her a sympathetic smile before activating her communicator. "Normandy, we need evac. Rendezvous with the mako in five."

A short buzz filled the air before a disembodied male voice replied. "On it, Commander."

Shepard snapped into a walk then, signalling to her teammates. "Williams take point. Tali scan the area for any signs of geth. I don't want any surprises on the way back." Seemingly remembering Liara was there, she glanced over her shoulder. "Dr. T'soni, we need to travel on foot back to our vehicle."

Liara merely nodded and hurried to catch up to the human woman, falling into a fast step beside her. Williams had taken the lead several metres ahead and Tali was walking slightly behind her, her attention focused on her omni-tool. The asari wanted to thank Shepard for saving her life but she wasn't sure if it was appropriate to do so now. Was it even customary to acknowledge such an act for a human? She knew some species would consider it a matter of honour. Others would expect something in return. She realised that her complete focus on the Protheans was going to prove problematic for her now.

Every so often she would peer over at Shepard who seemed completely focused on the terrain around them. Her brow creased slightly when she concentrated and her jaw clenched and relaxed occasionally as she shifted the weight of the rifle in her hands. Liara was intrigued; the human's face was so expressive yet she gave so little away. When grey eyes peered back at her, the asari broke her gaze away and stared at the ground beneath her, embarrassment billowing under her skin.

"Something the matter, Doctor?" Shepard's words were soft yet authoritative.

Liara forced herself to look back at the human. "No, Commander. I am just confused as to why you came here to help me." It wasn't a lie, not really. She was confused over it, even if she hadn't been thinking it at that moment.

One of Shepard's eyebrows quirked upwards and Liara found that expression rather amusing. "It's what we do. We fly around the galaxy righting wrongs and kicking evil butt."

Her words sounded strange to Liara, perhaps it was a human expression. "You... do that?"

The Commander let out a short chuckle. "I'm kidding, doctor. I'll explain when we get back to the Normandy."

Human humour. That was something she had no experience with. She smiled weakly back at Shepard. She had no idea what she was getting herself involved in and her lack of preparedness was worrying her. Still, her curiosity had been stirred by this woman and she had never been one to ignore that persistent questioning side of herself. She just hoped it didn't lead her into trouble.

Citadel Station, 2399

"It doesn't sound like you had much in common," Medora finally spoke after Liara had finished the story.

The older asari leaned back in her chair and considered that. "Yes and no."

"What do you mean?"

Liara smiled at her daughter. "While we were from different worlds, quite literally and figuratively, there was something that inexplicably drew us together. Perhaps it was because we were so different; it filled some void in our lives."

Medora turned the datapad in her hands over and over idly as she spoke. "You mean she just needed a reclusive scientist in her life?"

Liara chuckled at the suggestion. She knew the young asari was merely joking with her and it was something she had picked up growing up around Shepard. It was almost as if the human was still around when she spoke sometimes. Still, she gave her daughter a look that told her "not quite".

One corner of Merdora's lips twitched upwards. "Tell me a bit more about how you got to know one another then. It couldn't have been easy on board an Alliance ship."

Liara nodded. "You are not wrong. We didn't receive much free time in between missions and she was always needed somewhere. Thankfully, my work gave me an excuse to talk with her sometimes."

"You needed an excuse?" Medora sounded genuinely surprised.

The older asari touched her fingers to her brow, remembering how she used to be all those years ago. "If you think me unsocial now, you should have seen me back then. It wasn't so bad when I was around asari but I had no clue how to interact with aliens, especially humans. I would often say something that would end up embarrassing me." She let out a short laugh as a memory flashed across her mind. "And Shepard did all she could to encourage that."

Medora smiled happily. "I remember she liked doing that to you even after I was born."

"She was a tease, that much is certain." Liara allowed herself to revel in the memory of happier times for a moment before she continued. "She started as she meant to go on, it seems."

"It sounds as though you have quite a number of fun stories to share," Medora stated before throwing a quick glance around the room. "I think we have time for one more before the staff begin charging us rent."

That elicited another chuckle from Liara. Even when her heart was in such disarray, her daughter still had the ability to lift her spirits. She was grateful for that.

"Very well. Not long after I had joined the crew, Shepard came to where I was searching through my research. I was looking for anything that might help her mission but wasn't having much luck. As it turned out, we would not get far without the cipher. She had come to check up on me anyway..."

Aboard the Normandy, Theseus System, 2183.

The thrum of the inner workings of the Normandy was a sound Liara was not used to. She'd spent so much time alone and in isolated locations that she'd forgotten what a ship with a community on board actually felt like. There wasn't one place aboard the Alliance vessel where she could get a moment of silence, not one she had found at any rate. It wasn't distracting, really, but it was something that she found herself noticing when she was alone. As usual, that was most of the time.

It was ironic. After all of her self-imposed isolation, the one time she did choose to take on a project with others she still found herself spending most of her time alone. She had been assigned a small room behind the medic bay in which to work and sleep. She didn't find much of a need to leave very often either. Perhaps if she could build up the courage to socialise with the crew more things would change, but she could see the way they looked at her. They weren't exactly subtle.

They mistrusted her because she was Matriarch Benezia's daughter and because she wasn't human. She wasn't sure which was worse. She'd spent most of her life trying to distance herself from her own heritage but it had still followed her light years across the galaxy. Why was she not allowed to be judged on her own merits? She let out a sigh and stared glumly at the datapad in her hands. She hadn't come across anything helpful in days and the lack of progress was allowing her the time to muse on things she didn't want to be thinking about.

As if the Goddess herself had heard her thoughts, a reprieve came in the form of company. Liara peered over her shoulder as the door to her room slid open, revealing the slender figure of Commander Shepard. She wondered if it was common place for a commanding officer to walk into all her crew's private quarters without announcement. It wasn't as if she didn't lock the door when she didn't want to be disturbed but she still found it odd. Shepard smiled in greeting before approaching the asari.


The human turned her back to face the desk and leaned against it, crossing one leg over the other and folding her arms across her chest. She seemed relaxed, even friendly, and that helped ease Liara. Swivelling in her chair, the asari looked up at the newcomer, a questioning look in her eyes.

"How's the research going?" Shepard asked, her gaze flickering to the datapad that had now been abandoned on the desk.

Liara raised a hand to pinch the bridge of her nose, allowing her frustrations to show. "It is not proving very fruitful."

"Oh? I'm sure you'll come up with something." Shepard looked as though she really believed that and the asari didn't have the slightest clue why.

"I am not so sure..." Liara trailed off, dropping her hand to her lap as she did so.

Silence stretched out between them for a few moments before Shepard placed a hand flat on the desk and leaned in slightly. "You all right, Doctor?"

Liara thought that she'd, perhaps, given too much away in that one motion. "Yes, I am just worried that I am not pulling my own weight around here."

The Commander cocked her head to one side slightly and appeared to be considering those words. "I have the feeling that's not all there is to it."

The asari couldn't hide her surprise at Shepard's astuteness. Was she really that obvious? "It... It is nothing."

"Oh come on, Liara, I'm not going to give up that easily." The human's tone was light but there was also an underlying sincerity. The use of her name also left a curious sensation under her skin and she felt a flush rise to her cheeks.

"What gave me away?" she asked in a low voice.

Shepard raised a hand and pointed her forefinger at Liara's face, wagging it slightly. "Your nose wrinkles when you worry and you get all pouty. Dead giveaway."

The asari's eyes widened as the heat in her cheeks flared. "I do!"

She watched as the human's neutral expression faltered for several moments before she finally gave in to the grin. "No, not at all. I could just tell."

Realisation slowly dawned on Liara that the Commander had been joking but the burning in her cheeks didn't fade much. "Right. A joke. I see."

Shepard chortled to herself, obviously amused at the asari's embarrassment. "You'll get used to it. Now, what's bothering you?"

Liara ran a hand over her face, hoping the cooler skin of her hand would alleviate the heat there. "I... do not feel welcome here, Commander."

This seemed to snap Shepard out of her playful mood and her face became quite serious. "What makes you say that?"

The asari let out a short sigh. "I can see the looks your crew give me. Even your command staff do not trust me. Miss Williams seems quite hostile towards me at times and the others avoid me, at best. I know I have to earn your trust but I am not good at these kinds of things. It makes me feel... uncomfortable."

Sliding her hand along the desk towards Liara, Shepard stopped herself before they made any contact. She did reach out with her words though. "Give them some time. I know people can be pretty judgemental, especially us humans, but they'll come around."

Liara gazed up into grey eyes. "What makes you so sure?"

"Hey, you won me over, didn't you?" Shepard remarked casually.

They were simple words but they meant a lot to the asari. That was one thing that drew her to this human, she had accepted Liara almost immediately, with no sign of suspicion or mistrust. When they were alone together, she felt comfortable and like she could be herself. Shepard had even defended her when other crew members had questioned her during debriefing. No one had ever done that before. It felt good. She suddenly felt less alone in the universe. That was causing all kinds of confusion for her though but she had tried not to focus on it too much. Her personal feelings weren't important in the face of such a grave mission.

"There you go again, off in your own little world," Shepard pointed out, nudging the asari's shoulder gently with her hand.

Liara blinked up at her companion. "Oh, my apologies, Commander."

Shepard shook her head a little. "Going to enlighten me?" When she was offered no response, she continued. "On your thoughts."

Liara panicked momentarily, not wanting to embarrass herself further. She'd already done that in one of their earlier conversations and she knew she'd repeat that if she made any attempt at expressing herself. But with how the Commander had so readily accepted her, perhaps she deserved some form of answer, even if it did mean the asari stumbling over her words.

Before she could speak though, Shepard waved a hand dismissively. "Don't worry about it, Doctor. I'm not going to interrogate you on it or anything. You're allowed to keep things to yourself." With that, she pushed herself away from the desk. Fearing she would leave then, Liara reached out and grasped the human's wrist. Shepard looked down at the blue fingers encircling her limb, surprise set firmly into her features.

"Wait, please," Liara blurted out. Not giving herself enough time to process her actions, she continued on. "I do not want to close myself off from you. You are the one person to show me some form of respect and, dare I say, friendship. I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate that."

Her fingers began to tingle from the contact between her and Shepard, forcing her to realise what she'd done. She hastily retracted her hand and slunk back in her chair, hoping she had not offended the woman. When she dared to look up at the Commander's face, she saw that same expression of surprise but there was something else hiding behind her eyes. She couldn't place it though, human emotion was an enigma to her still.

Quickly regaining her composure, Shepard rubbed the back of her neck with one hand. "Don't worry about it. I'm a pretty good judge of character and you're a member of my crew now - you'll get the same treatment as everyone else."

The same as everyone else? That both elated her and left her with a sense of disappointment. She couldn't place why though. "Thank you, Shepard."

The Commander nodded once and smiled awkwardly. It seemed she wasn't particularly good at receiving thanks or compliments. Liara found that endearing though.

"But yeah..." Shepard muttered. "I should go."

The asari acknowledged that with a nod of her own and watched as her companion walked over to the door that led into the medical bay. As it slid open, Shepard turned. There was a gleam in her eye as she looked at Liara and she suddenly felt as though she was before the scope of a sniper.

"See, that's solved the problem," Shepard noted, bringing a finger up to tap her lips. "You're not pouting anymore." With that said, she turned on her heel and disappeared through the door.

Liara brought a hand up to touch her own lips. She was joking, right?

Citadel Station, 2399

"I blame my complete lack of social skills on you, mother," Medora stated with a similar glint in her eye that she'd often seen in Shepard's.

Liara shook her head and smiled. "I'm willing to accept responsibility for that, Little Wing." She drew out the syllables of the nickname in order to maximise the reaction from her daughter. To her surprise, Medora didn't even cast a single look around herself.

"I'm building up a resistance," she said simply.

Noting the way the waiting staff were beginning to hover, Liara guessed they were outstaying their welcome at The Gastronaut. She smiled apologetically at the young asari waitress and straightened in the chair. She gestured towards the door with one hand so Medora would realise her intent to leave but, instead of heading out, her daughter made her way over to the bar and exchanged a few words with the staff member there. A moment later, Liara realised what she was doing. She was paying for their drinks. She would need to discuss that with Medora once they were out of there.

Liara stood and exited the establishment, awaiting her daughter outside. When the young asari appeared, she gave her a stern look. Apparently Medora had been expecting it though and responded with a cheeky grin. Deciding against chastising her daughter for now, Liara turned and strolled leisurely along the promenade leading to the Presidium. They walked together in silence for some time, merely enjoying each other's company.

Many members of different species passed them by as they meandered through the central walkway, each focused on their own goals and conversation. More people crowded the stores and eateries as time went on, marking the latter portion of the day. Soon the celebrations would pick up and there would be music accompanied by drink and dancing. She hoped to avoid that. The day's travelling suddenly hit her and she reached up with a hand to rub her brow.

Sensing her mother's weariness, Medora reached out and touched the older asari's upper arm. "I have a short lease apartment nearby if you'd like to rest for a while."

Liara looked over and smiled at Medora. "Thank you, that would be appreciated."

They moved through the Presidium without interruption and it wasn't until they reached the upper wards that either of them spoke again.

"It looks like another lively celebration this year," Medora commented casually.

Liara nodded. "It usually is."

"You don't approve, do you?"

Glancing over at her daughter, the older asari smiled briefly. "It has lost its meaning. They don't celebrate the sacrifices made for them, or the heroism that saved us all; they celebrate their own existence without thought as to how they are even standing here in the first place."

Medora looked a little taken aback by those words. "That doesn't sound like you at all, mother."

Letting out a quiet sigh, Liara clasped her hands in front of her. "I suppose some negativity cannot be avoided, not when my bondmate is so easily forgotten."

"But she isn't. Look around, there's pictures of her everywhere." Medora gestured with an arm at the various displays spotted along the corridor.

Liara didn't look. "Her face may not be forgotten, Little Wing, but her actions have been. Do they even know what she stood for?"

The younger asari paused in front of a large doorway that seemed to lead into an apartment complex. She keyed something into the security panel next to it and the door slid open with a hiss. Liara followed her daughter inside and they made their way along several corridors lined with identical doors, the low lighting flickering above them.

"Then why don't you tell me about that?" Medora asked suddenly when they reached the end of a long hallway.

"What do you mean?"

Medora tapped at another panel set into the wall and another door slid open. She gestured for her mother to enter first. "What has been forgotten?"

The first thing Liara noticed when she stepped into the apartment was how clean it looked. It was almost like a showroom presented to potential tenants. The main living area was spotless, not one thing on the various tables and cabinets seemed out of place. A large couch lined one wall and it looked as though it had been freshly delivered that day. She looked back at her daughter expectantly.

"I have a pretty good arrangement with the landlord here. You know how the volus are, they like to have a plan for every business contingency. He uses this place as a backup apartment for high profile guests or tenants. If it's not in use, I get it for my stays here. He gets paid well and I only visit for a couple of days a year so it's a good arrangement." Medora secured the door behind her as she explained.

"I see." Liara was surprised that her daughter had been able to strike a deal with a volus. She hadn't exactly known many that were interested in a fair exchange.

The younger asari moved to the kitchen area and pulled out a vial containing what Liara assumed to be wine. She looked over at her mother who shook her head before pouring herself a glass. She then strolled over to the couch and sat down, nodding at the other asari to do the same.

"So, back to my earlier question..." Medora said before sipping at the red liquid in her glass.

Liara lowered herself onto the couch. "She was more than just a figurehead but so few knew the real her. She had fears, hopes, dreams, anguish and joy just like the rest of us. I know you realise this; you've seen it too. It just saddens me that such an integral part of her is always overlooked. Most of her crew didn't even get to see that side of her."

Medora twisted to face her mother slightly, stretching an arm over the back of the couch. "She had to be the strong commanding officer, right? That's not such a surprise. That's probably why she's been remembered as such."

Liara smiled wistfully. "It took its toll on her..."

Aboard the Normandy, en route to Citadel, 2183.

Pain shot down her arm like molten fire, causing Liara to wince and shift uncomfortably on the medical bay bed. She could feel the trickle of blood slip down over her singed skin and each throb increased the burning sensation. But that pain was nothing compared to watching Commander Shepard walk among her crew as if nothing had happened on Virmire. She watched from where she sat as the last of the crew filed out of the medical bay, leaving her alone with the Commander and Doctor Chakwas.

Liara adjusted her grip on the gauze that was pressed against her upper arm. She'd stupidly taken a hit during the heated battling down on that goddess forsaken planet. The gunfire had ripped straight through her biotic field and she hadn't even seen it coming. Thankfully it hadn't prevented her from continuing on with their mission but it had impeded her abilities quite a bit.

Chakwas approached her with a bundle of medical supplies in her hands. Liara had insisted she be treated last as there were needier patients present. She was beginning to regret that decision, however, as her fingers were showing signs of numbness. Before the doctor could reach her, Shepard intercepted her. The Commander held out a hand and gestured to the supplies in Chakwas' hands.

"I'll take care of that, Doc. You go check on Ashley; see if she's okay." Shepard's voice sounded tighter than usual, more restricted.

Chakwas eyed the other woman for a few seconds before slowly nodding. "All right, Commander. I'll come check up on Dr. T'Soni is a while then."

With that, she left the medical bay and Shepard stood with her back to the asari for some time before turning to face her. Liara could see the exhaustion etched into the human's proud features and the asari knew she must have been having difficulties keeping the strong facade up. She had to admire that about the Commander, she tried to be the backbone of her crew, supporting them so they could give in to their own weaknesses occasionally. But where does that leave her?

Liara watched as Shepard's jaw clenched, the muscles in her cheek tightening before neutrality returned to her face. "Let's get you patched up." Even the Commander's voice had slipped back into its usual authoritative, calm tones.

The asari felt suddenly aware of her state of undress, having had to remove part of her tunic to apply pressure to her wound. Her left arm and shoulder were completely revealed but she doubted Shepard was really interested in anything more than tending to her injuries at that moment. Why would she be anyway? The human placed the bandages and ointment down on the bed beside Liara before placing herself directly in front of the asari.

"Let me see..." Shepard said softly as she reached out for the gauze. Liara allowed her hand to fall away and a strong hand slipped around the underside of her arm, lifting it slightly. The minute movement caused a wave of pain to surge down her arm and she couldn't help but cringe at it. "Sorry," Shepard murmured as she removed the gauze.

Liara looked down at the wound, the break in her skin angrily staring back at her. The flesh around it was inflamed and blood still seeped from the injury quite freely. Shepard lifted a canister from the bed and held it above the wounded arm. As she pressed down on the nozzle, a thin mist sprayed across Liara's skin. It stung initially but that soon dissipated into an odd tingling sensation. Before long, she could feel nothing at all and she was glad for the reprieve. Placing the numbing agent aside, Shepard set about cleaning and dressing the injury.

As she wrapped the last of the bandage around Liara's arm, the Commander let out a lengthy sigh. "I'm sorry, Liara, I shouldn't have let this happen to you." There was a vast amount of regret in those words.

The asari looked up at Shepard's face and saw that her eyebrows were drawn together and her lips pushed into a frown. "I am fine."

The human shook her head. "I shouldn't have let anything happen to you."

Liara had a feeling there was more meaning to those words than was initially obvious. "You cannot be everywhere at once, Shepard. You are only one woman."

Cool fingers slid down Liara's arm and gripped her wrist. "I should have been, dammit."

Shepard squeezed her eyes shut and her jaw quivered for a moment. Without a moment's thought, the asari reached up with her free hand and touched her fingertips to the woman's cheek. The Commander's brow creased further and Liara thought she might flinch away from her touch but, instead, she leaned into it. She pressed her palm against that heated cheek and brushed her thumb soothingly across the smooth skin.

Even though they'd admitted their attraction for one another, Liara had found it hard to believe Shepard could think of her in that way. She was such a strong individual, a force of nature; she could have anyone she wanted. Yet, here she was, allowing herself to be comforted by a young asari scientist. It was almost surreal to Liara. Feeling the tense muscles of the Commander's jaw relax slightly, she wanted nothing more than to take more of that pain away.

Grey eyes reappeared and looked down at Liara, a storm of emotion churning behind them. A cautious hand reached up and covered the asari's, merely resting there for several long moments. "I can't lose anyone else, Liara."

The weight of her words hung in the air and a silence stretched out between them, unspoken thoughts coiling around Liara's mind like a threatened viper. "We all made the choice to follow you. We know the risks." She forced her other thoughts down, now was not the time to face them.

Shepard pulled Liara's hand away from her cheek and clasped it in front of her chest as she spoke. "I'm not willing to accept any more sacrifices. I want to be selfish. I want my crew to live."

Liara smiled sadly at her companion. "I know, Shepard. I believe in you, I know we can overcome Saren together."

"Together..." The Commander almost whispered the word. "I like the sound of that."

"What do you mean? You have had your team with you every step of the way, have you not?" Liara questioned, a little confused.

Shepard studied the asari's face quietly before speaking. "Yeah. They're the best crew I could ask for. This might sound bad but I just feel like, at the end of it all, I'm standing alone in the dark."

Hearing those words saddened Liara. "You are not alone," she insisted.

Her lips drawing into a thin line, Shepard looked off to one side before she peered back at the asari. "I think you're right. It kind of feels like I might not be after all." Releasing her hold on Liara's hand, the Commander stepped back and rubbed the back of her neck. "Look at me, getting all mopey. I need to pull myself together."

The asari wasn't about to leave it at that though. "What is so different now?"

The human woman smiled awkwardly and leaned back against the bed opposite Liara's. "I guess that would be you."

She hadn't expected that. "Me?" When Shepard didn't seem inclined to elaborate, Liara pressed her on it. "But I'm just another member of the crew."

The Commander let out a short chuckle. "Like hell you are."

"I do not understand. I perform a role within the infrastructure of the Normandy's staff, does that not make me part of the crew?"

Shepard gave her a full smile, one that Liara rarely got to see. She seemed to be amused at what the asari had said. "Sure, if you want to look at it like that. You're not military though, you're not a subordinate. I feel... I feel like I can actually talk to you. You're not going to think me weak or that I'm losing my ability to command. You just listen."

The unusual honesty shocked Liara but it filled her chest with warmth as well. "You... you have no idea how much that means to me, Shepard."

The human shook her head. "Oh I think I do. But, hey, lets not dwell on this too much. We'll be arriving at the Citadel soon and we need to be focused."

The asari nodded. "Very well, Commander."

Shepard hesitated after pushing herself away from the bed she leant against. Her gaze flickered across Liara's face, pupils dilating ever-so-slightly, before she shook her head again and turned to leave. The asari desperately wanted to ask what she had been thinking at that moment but she knew it wasn't appropriate. There were more important things to focus on.

Still, she couldn't help staring longingly at the exit to the medical bay after Shepard had disappeared through it. Part of her was regretting her decision to hold off on affirming their attraction to one another. Attraction. It seemed such an inadequate word now. There was something stronger between them, something far more important than mere attraction.

Citadel Station, 2399

"Forgive me if I don't find myself quite as overwhelmed by the romanticism as you are, mother." Medora added a smile to punctuate her words, showing she hadn't meant them harshly.

Liara leaned back into the couch and closed her eyes. "As your mom would have said, 'you had to be there.'"

When no witty response cut through the silence, the older asari opened her eyes again to look at her daughter. Medora's gaze had dropped to the floor now and Liara realised what she had said. She hadn't referred to Shepard as "mom" in quite some time. It was a term the human had insisted their daughter use when referring to her and, after her death, it had been a painful reminder of the loss for Medora. So Liara had stopped using it.

"I'm sorry..." Liara said quickly.

Medora held up a hand and shook her head. "It's nice to hear it again, actually. It just took me by surprise, you know?"

"I think all this reminiscing is pushing me back into old habits," the older asari noted.

Medora nodded, her gaze moving to the table where her empty glass had been sitting for some time. "It's getting late anyway. Can we continue tomorrow though?"

Her daughter's eagerness surprised her. "What's gotten into you all of a sudden?"

The young asari stood and stretched out her limbs, letting a yawn escape her lips. "It's not like I never wondered these things, mother. I just feel like now is the right time to talk about them."

Liara pushed herself forward in the seat and looked up at her daughter. "You were never one to let propriety stand in the way of your curiosity."

Medora gave her mother a withering look. "Propriety had nothing to do with it. I knew it hurt you and I didn't want to cause you any more pain."

Guilt formed a knot in Liara's stomach. She'd effectively cut herself off from her daughter because of her own grief. Medora had felt as though she couldn't even talk to her. What kind of mother was she? As if hearing the thoughts, the young asari knelt down beside her mother and wrapped her arms around her. Surprised by the unusual display of affection, it took Liara a moment to return the embrace.

Pulling back a little, Medora gave her a mother a charming smile. "It's okay, I forgive you."

Returning the smile, Liara felt relief at hearing those words. It was strange, even though she was the maternal figure, she still feared disappointing her daughter. She had been told it was meant to be the other way around. Perhaps it was just a character flaw of hers; she had always had a phobia of letting people down. Thanks to Shepard, however, she had managed to overcome that but it still surfaced from time to time.

Medora straightened again, throwing a glance back at a terminal set into one wall. "It's late so I'm going to turn in. I suggest you do the same."

Liara almost laughed at that. "Yes, daughter."

Shrugging, the young asari made her way to the other side of the room. "Oh, your room is back there." She pointed to a door close to her mother. "I'll see you in the morning."

"Sleep well," Liara called out after Medora as she entered her bedroom.

She scanned the room briefly, wondering if she should just do as her daughter suggested. She was there to relax for a few days, after all, and it wasn't as if she could pass the time by watching the galactic news. Shepard's face would be all over it and she'd rather remember her in her own way. She slowly stood and made her way to her assigned room, pleased to find it was in a similar state of tidiness as the living area.

She briefly considered returning to her ship to gather a few personal items but, upon spotting the spare night clothes and wash items, she decided against it. She could do that tomorrow. She went about her nightly routine as if on autopilot, trying her best not to let her mind drift off into distant memories. It was a losing battle though. The day's reminiscing had left her nostalgic and with a cold ache in her chest.

She eventually lay out on the bed, flat on her back, and stared up at the ceiling. Clasping her hands atop her stomach, she allowed her mind to slip into the echoes of the past she had been trying to avoid. Remembering how she and Shepard had interacted aboard the original Normandy had inevitably led her to think of their first joining. It was something that evoked an immense amount of joy for her but it also reminded her of the gaping chasm within her own psyche where Shepard had lived for decades. They had barely been apart after the conflict with the Reapers and their connection only grew stronger as time passed.

That first melding had remained her most special memory of Shepard though. It was so new and exciting, fraught with untold pleasures and discoveries. The first time their minds touched without restriction was an epiphany to Liara and she knew she'd never be quite the same again after it.

She closed her eyes and focused on the whispers of faded sensations and old promises.

Aboard the Normandy, en route to the Mu Relay, 2183.

"Just tell me what to do," Shepard's words were spoken with her usual calm, even tone but Liara could sense the uncertainty behind them.

They stood in silence for several painfully long moments and she could see the slightest flush to Shepard's cheeks as her gaze flickered across Liara's face. Could this woman be just as nervous as she was? She had never been with an asari before, that much Liara knew, so it was likely she didn't know what to expect. But she was in the exact same position. She had never joined with anyone before and she had only briefly gone over human mating rituals in recent days.

Shepard's lips parted a little as she let out a shaky breath. It was strange seeing the soldier flustered, her demeanour was usually so unfaltering. Liara's gaze hovered over Shepard's mouth as the tip of a pink tongue appeared to moisten her increasingly inviting lips. Anticipation fluttered suddenly in her stomach and she could only think of what it would feel like to touch those lips. She could feel the tension building up within her muscles again from the previous day when they'd been so close to actually kissing, their bodies only inches apart.

She wouldn't let this opportunity pass her by. It was too important, she had to show Shepard how she truly felt. With that thought firmly in her mind, she reached out and placed her hands at either side of the Commander's face, pulling her in closer. She was vaguely aware of the woman's eyebrows shooting up in surprise briefly before their lips met with hurried force. Her body was suddenly flooded with a myriad of new sensations and she willingly allowed herself to be carried away in the heat of the moment.

Shepard's arms wrapped around her and Liara felt herself being pressed firmly against soft curves. That was one of the first things to strike her about the embrace, how gentle and soft it felt. Shepard may have been a soldier and survived some of the worst things the galaxy could throw at her, but she was still able to be tender with Liara. Still, the tenderness did nothing to dampen the need they both felt and she could hear Shepard's breathing hitch as their kiss deepened.

A hand slid up her back slowly, sending a shock of pleasure surging through her. Shepard likely had no idea how sensitive the asari spine was but she somehow instinctively knew what would cause Liara to lose her grip on her self control. A whimper was lost in the kiss as their tongues met, tentatively at first, before that action too became heated. She let her own fingers slip up into auburn hair, the experience a little strange at first as the soft strands tickled her sensitive skin. She had often wondered what it would feel like to touch Shepard's hair, to feel it between her fingers, to have it brushing against her face. It was an unusual but pleasant experience.

Liara pulled back from the kiss abruptly, panting slightly to catch her breath. Shepard's scent filled her nose and her taste lingered in her mouth, the mixture proving to be completely intoxicating. She couldn't help thinking that her people might be missing out on something when they didn't initiate physical intimacy during the joining. The prospect of sharing something so enveloping with this woman caused a shiver to slip down her spine and she closed her eyes momentarily, attempting to steady herself. The anticipation was forming knots in her gut and her skin felt as though it was burning, the slightest caress from Shepard only heightening the sensation.

When she levelled her gaze with Shepard's, she was intrigued to see her grey eyes had darkened and the pupils had enlarged significantly. She had an almost feral look on her face now and Liara found that particular human reaction surprisingly enticing. Tracing the curve of Shepard's neck with her forefinger, she watched as the woman's eyelids fluttered closed. One of an asari's most sensitive areas was at the base of her neck so, perhaps, their two species weren't too dissimilar after all. Her fingers wandered up to Shepard's ear and brushed across a heated cheek before lingering over the scar that marked her brow. Grey eyes reappeared at the touch and a smile pulled at slightly swollen lips.

Shepard reached up with one hand to capture the fingers at her brow and pulled them to her lips. She placed a kiss to Liara's palm, the light touch leaving a tingling sensation behind. With her other hand, she found the fastening of Liara's tunic and deftly undid it, causing the fabric to fall away slightly at the asari's chest. The bold move caused the asari's nervousness to flare up again and she pulled her hand out of Shepard's grip and placed it flat against her chest instead. Liara could feel the patter of the woman's heart beneath her hand.

"Shepard..." she murmured quietly, not entirely sure what it was she wanted to say. She didn't want them to stop but she still couldn't help feeling apprehensive.

"Kristen." Shepard's voice had dropped into a low purr now and, when Liara's brow creased slightly, she continued. "Call me Kristen."

Heat prickled under Liara's skin at the sound of Shepard's first name. Of course, she had known of it when she'd read the Commander's file but hearing it now, from the woman's own lips, seemed like a huge gesture. As if Shepard was opening up and revealing herself to Liara. It was silly of her to think like that, it was only one word after all. Did it really mean anything? When she didn't respond, Shepard stepped closer and hooked a finger under the collar of the asari's tunic, peeling it back slowly.

"When we're alone, I'd like you to use it." With that said, Shepard leaned in and pressed her lips to Liara's neck, the sensation causing a pulse of pleasure to pass through her.

She turned her head to one side to accommodate her new lover's ministrations. She closed her eyes and focused on the way Shepard made her feel. The teasingly light caress of soft lips was causing her pulse to race and her breathing became noticeably shallower. Her mind only clouded further when Shepard's hand found the small of her back and a hot tongue brushed across smooth blue skin, nearly causing Liara to lose control completely.

The asari let out a gasp as teeth grazed her neck and she had to consciously tell her arms to move in order to push Shepard back. Confused eyes peered back at her and she had to take several moments in order to pull her thoughts together into something close to coherent.

"Did I do something wrong?" Concern laced Shepard's words and Liara felt a pang of guilt at having caused the woman unfounded worry.

"No, no..." Liara uttered breathily. "Far from it," she said quickly when she had recovered a little.

Shepard rubbed the back of her neck awkwardly. "If you're still not ready..?"

Liara offered a smile but she had a feeling the anxiety still showed. "I am, really. I just..." she trailed off and fingered the flap of fabric that hung at her chest. "Kristen..." she said the name slowly, relishing the feel of it on her lips. "This is my first time. I do not want to disappoint."

Shepard studied her for a moment, which only added to the asari's discomfort. "Liara, I'm going into this just as blind as you are. For all I know, I'll be touching you in all the wrong places."

She couldn't help but chuckle at how far off the mark Shepard was. "On the contrary, if I did not know better, I would have thought you had been with an asari before."

Lifting a hand to rub the back of her neck once more, Shepard gave Liara a lopsided grin. "I'm just groping in the dark... so to speak."

Closing the gap between them, Liara pressed a lingering kiss to her lover's lips before stepping away again. "I want you to know every part of my body, to know the depths of my mind, to be a part of me."

Those words darkened Shepard's eyes further and she visibly swallowed. "Liara..." she almost growled.

"Let me just slip out of these," she said while gesturing to her clothes.

Shepard could only look on as Liara turned and moved in the direction of the bed. She was acutely aware of being watched as she began to remove the tunic and expose the skin beneath. The sound of rustling fabric from behind her indicated that, perhaps, Shepard had taken the initiative with her own garments as well. Letting the tunic fall to the floor beside the bed, Liara carefully removed the remainder of her clothes and stood with her back to her lover for several moments.

The coolness of the artificial air on her flushed skin was refreshing and it helped to steady her nerves. She took in a deep breath and slowly turned, a smile coming to her lips as she took in the view before her. There Shepard stood, facing towards the window that held a spectacular view. The human's naked form was framed by the bright purples of the nebula the Normandy was passing through, the scene giving her an almost ethereal look.

Liara moved towards Shepard, her gaze travelling over newly exposed flesh. Her pale skin held signs of past battles and Liara found herself wanting to touch each of the scars with her lips, as if the act would erase the memories associated with them. She allowed her gaze to drop down over toned shoulders, admiring the gentle curve of the woman's spine and behind. As she neared Shepard, she reached out and lightly placed her palms on the inviting skin of her lover's shoulders.

Strands of auburn slid against Shepard's neck and shoulders as she turned her head to one side, attempting to peer back at the asari. Liara slipped her hands down over the muscles of Shepard's upper arms, gripping them lightly as she pressed herself up against the smooth skin of her lover's back. She heard a sharp intake of breath and then felt her lover lean back slightly as her fingers found the asari's hip. In reaction to the touch she pushed her pelvis forward, causing her hips to bump against the woman's behind. That action seemingly aroused Shepard as Liara noticed the rhythm of her breathing change once more.

A smirk pulled at the asari's lips as she found a powerful satisfaction in being able to affect the normally controlled Commander on such a physical level. While humans were an incredibly physical species, as their mating rituals would indicate, she still wished to touch Shepard on an emotional level as well. That was very important to her. Still, she understood that the best way to facilitate melding would be to stimulate her lover physically first and she could certainly see the appeal of that. As if sensing her thoughts, an impatient hand gripped Liara's thigh before fingernails grazed lightly across the skin there.

The asari leaned in close, sweeping Shepard's hair aside with one hand and allowing her breath to caress the back of the exposed neck. Finding the temptation too great, Liara pressed her lips to the skin there, inhaling the woman's delicate scent as she did so. She wasn't sure why, but there was something about that scent that excited her. She placed firmer kisses down along her upper spine before moving to brush her lips across the curve of Shepard's neck, echoing the woman's earlier actions. She flicked her tongue across the warm flesh once, the taste of her skin something she instantly wanted more of. It clearly had the intended result as she now gripped Liara's thigh more firmly.

With one hand still grasping Shepard's shoulder, the asari slipped her other arm around her lover's waist and pulled her in even closer, their bodies fitting together perfectly. She trailed her fingertips across Shepard's stomach, feeling the muscles there tense in response. As she did this, she continued to place kisses against her lover's neck, occasionally flicking her tongue across the skin. Shepard shivered under her touch and Liara could sense a tension building up in the woman.

When the asari swept her hand upwards and brushed her fingertips against the underside of her lover's breasts, Shepard suddenly lurched into motion. She twisted in Liara's embrace, breaking the contact between their bodies for only a moment before strong arms were hastily encircling the asari and tugging her into a fierce kiss. The unexpected aggressive act left Liara completely at Shepard's mercy as the heated movement of their lips burned away all conscious thought from her mind. Gone were the tentative caresses from earlier, replaced instead with confident and needy touches. Shepard's hot tongue pushed past Liara's lips, causing a moan to rise up from the back of the asari's throat.

Smooth, flushed skin slid against her own as they clung to one another, both attempting to somehow get closer to their lover. She could hear a muffled whimper as she pressed herself firmly against Shepard's body, her hands pawing at the woman's back. Her lover's own hands were moving tantalisingly over Liara now, one gripping the back of her neck while the other slid down between her shoulder blades. Shepard dragged her fingernails across the skin of Liara's shoulders and back, causing the asari's breathing to quicken considerably. If it felt this good just being with her at such a singular, base level, Liara could only imagine how powerful joining with Shepard would be.

The desire to discover that pushed Liara into breaking the kiss, both she and Shepard taking a few moments to steady their breathing once more. Shepard still held onto the asari firmly, her gaze flitting between her eyes and her lips. Liara forced herself to focus, to gather her thoughts. She had never felt such a strong physical reaction to a person before and it was proving difficult to ignore. The minute movements of teasing fingertips against the back of her neck wasn't helping matters much either.

"Goddess..." The word was barely more than a whisper.

Shepard levelled her gaze with Liara's, looking deep into her eyes. The asari almost lost the thought she'd been trying to form on her lips; the intensity within those grey depths was almost breathtaking. Shaking her head a little to clear her mind, she peered back at her lover, hoping to convey the importance of what she was about to say with that single look.

"Bond with me, Kristen..."

Shepard's nostrils flared momentarily as her pupils dilated and she nodded slightly. Liara felt a flutter in her stomach as she took in a deep breath, readying herself to open herself up to the woman on a physical, mental and spiritual level. Even though she'd touched Shepard's mind before to witness the Prothean visions, she'd done so with the utmost control so she didn't probe further than she had to. The natural human instinct to resist had drained her but a complete and willing bond shouldn't have the same effect.

Liara continued to stare into Shepard's eyes, merely allowing her to become accustomed to the idea. Soon, the asari felt her lover's muscles begin to relax slowly and she knew now would be the right time to initiate the melding. Pressing her palms more firmly against Shepard's back, she closed her eyes and mentally withdrew into herself, cutting off her senses to the outside world for several moments. The cabin around her, the cool floor beneath her, the hum of the Normandy's engines; they all began to fade away until all she could feel was the tingle of contact between her and Shepard.

Then, tilting her head back, she opened her eyes and let her senses expand outwards, completely focused on the only point of contact she had with the world around her. She could feel her mind brush against her lover's at first, her consciousness finding little resistance as she slipped past the defences she had to fight through previously. Shepard seemed to welcome her gladly and it was as if she was melting into the human mind, their thoughts entwining and their memories flitting around the exterior of each others' psyche.

In the next moment she found herself gasping as she experienced each of Shepard's nerves flashing to life, a myriad of new sensations flooding her mind. Yet somehow she could still differentiate between their two bodies, even with how connected they were, and she could feel Shepard trembling ever so slightly. Liara could feel both her and the Commander's emotions swirling inside her in a torrent of raw energy and she found it almost overwhelming. Fear, apprehension, excitement, arousal, affection, insecurity, wonder, shyness, desire; they melded together until Liara couldn't tell which were hers and which were her lover's.

Sensing that Shepard was feeling just as staggered by the experience as she was, Liara looked into grey eyes as they occasionally darted back and forth, seemingly adjusting to the overpowering surge of sensory input. She was soon able to focus on Liara though and she gave the asari a reassuring smile. No speech was necessary between them. Even though she couldn't hear Shepard's words, she could feel the tickle of her thoughts in her mind.

There was a new sensation forming in the pit of her stomach now and she realised she was experiencing what Shepard was feeling. The muscles tensed there and she could feel a faint throbbing. Not only did it effect her body, she suddenly had the compulsion to feel more of her lover against her, to move against her, to reach some glorious height that she instinctively yearned for. Before she could contemplate what that might have been, Shepard's lips were upon hers, moving with such searing fervour that she thought her legs might buckle.

A wet tongue pushed its way into her mouth and brushed against her own, sending a jolt of pleasure down her spine, the feeling intensified due to the bond they now shared. She could feel her muscles weakening with each caress of Shepard's hands and tongue. Allowing her hands to slide outwards from the centre of her lover's back, Liara gripped Shepard's shoulders and turned her. They half-stumbled towards the bed, their lips still sliding against each other's with increasing urgency, before the asari pulled back.

Shepard blinked blankly at her a few times, the sudden loss of contact apparently confusing her senses. Not giving her any chance to recover, Liara reached out abruptly and pushed her, causing the unsuspecting woman to topple onto the bed. She bounced once and looked up at the asari in surprise, her eyes widened and an eyebrow raised. Liara smirked down at her lover, feeling both the surprise and arousal that action had caused within Shepard. Seemingly realising Liara's intention, she propped herself up onto her elbows and shuffled back on the bed until her head hovered above a pillow.

The positioning gave Liara a perfect view of Shepard now and she took a moment to let her eyes roam over naked curves. She sensed her lover's embarrassment at being inspected in her vulnerable state but the asari couldn't help but indulge her desires. Shepard was beautiful. From the soft swell of her breasts and the flat stomach, to the patch of dark hair between her legs and her toned thighs. Liara wanted to touch every part of her, to burn the memory of her into her own senses, into her very nerves. She wanted to hold onto this moment for as long as she had left in the universe.

She knew that Shepard was getting more and more uncomfortable under the intense gaze, so Liara slowly moved forwards, lowering one knee to the bed before sliding it up alongside her lover's legs. Edging herself closer to Shepard, she placed both hands on the bed beside a pale waist and continued forwards. She could see her lover's chest rise and fall more quickly now, as well as feel the building anticipation that knotted the woman's stomach. Sliding her other leg in between Shepard's, she pushed it slowly up to her pelvis, their skin sliding against each other's, causing Liara's pulse to quicken.

When her thigh brushed against the apex of Shepard's legs, she watched as her lover's eyes squeezed shut and she arched her back. Liara could feel the shock of pleasure the act had caused and it made her hesitate for a moment. Grey eyes appeared once more, even darker than before, and a shaky breath escaped her lips. Liara continued moving up her lover's body, dipping her hip slightly as she went to add a little more pressure to Shepard. Trembling hands found her back and she lowered herself fully onto the heated body beneath her.

The sheer sensual power of that one experience was enough to ignite every one of her nerves into a rapturous crescendo. Her senses were overwhelmed for a moment but she soon realised Shepard had flipped her over onto her back and had reversed their positions. Liara looked up at her, the emotion building in her chest like an unstoppable torrent of water. She knew the Commander could feel it too but she seemed more in control than the asari was, even with her body's susceptibility to physical stimuli. She needed some way of releasing it so she focused on imprinting those emotions on Shepard's body and mind.

Liara closed the gap between their lips once more, initiating a heated kiss as she gripped her lover's shoulders firmly. Shepard began to move against her now, her hips rocking slowly and deliberately and Liara could feel moisture on her thigh. The scent of her lover's arousal reached her nose now, adding to the dizzying heights of intoxication that she felt being so close to her. Lifting her knee slightly, Liara was rewarded with a low moan from her lover and an increase in her rocking.

Shepard was becoming louder in her mind now, brief glimpses of thoughts and emotions surging through her consciousness as their bond became stronger. Liara willingly allowed herself to relinquish the small amount of control she retained of the joining so she could relish in the unifying pleasure that passed between them. Teeth grazed lips and fingernails scraped against skin as their movements became more urgent, more needy. Shepard took control of the rhythm of their bodies, the bucking of her hips becoming more pronounced as one of her hands slid down Liara's side and back up again.

Breaking the kiss once more, Shepard dipped her head down to press her lips to Liara's neck, the heat of her mouth sending a shiver throughout the asari's body. She found herself rocking her own hips in harmony with her lover as her thigh ground against Shepard's groin, the damp curls there tickling her skin slightly. She could feel an energy building up within her lover and the faster they moved, the more intense it grew. Her nerves tingled every time Shepard slid against her body and her heart pounded loudly in her chest, matching the beating of the one above her.

Shepard nipped gently at the skin beneath her lips and Liara whimpered softly as her hands slid down her lover's back to the curve of her behind. She rested her hands there, enjoying the feeling of how Shepard's muscles tensed and relaxed with each buck. Shepard panted against Liara's neck, each short breath punctuated with a flick of her tongue or a caress of her lips. The asari gripped her lover's behind and pulled her more forcefully against her thigh, receiving a satisfying groan in response.

She could feel Shepard's muscles weakening and her arms shook slightly from holding up her own weight while being assaulted with so many exhilarating sensations. Liara could feel the pleasure pulsing from her lover's groin, the building wetness there, the growing tension in her gut and the glimmer of bliss that shot through each of her nerves from the bond. She instinctively knew that Shepard would lose control soon, that the increasingly erratic rocking of her hips would tip her over and Liara desperately wanted to be the cause of that.

Reaching out more forcefully with her mind, she enveloped Shepard's consciousness with her own, their thoughts and feelings becoming more intricately entwined until she was unable to hear anything but their singular harmony. Apparently in response, Shepard pushed her upper torso off of Liara's and arched her back, effectively forcing herself to slide slowly up the asari's thigh until their hips met. Liara's breathing hitched as she watched her lover's eyes roll back in her head for a moment.

Taking the opportunity, Liara reached up with one hand to cup Shepard's left breast, the erect nipple straining against her palm. A sound caught in the human woman's throat as her arms nearly gave out on her but she was somehow able to retain her strength. She arched further into Liara's touch, her hips jutting against the asari's more and more frequently. A flush had spread across Shepard's cheeks and down her neck to touch her chest, the ruddy colour contrasting her usually pale skin.

The temperature had risen between them to such a degree that beads of sweat now clung to both of their bodies, a thin film of perspiration collecting on Shepard's upper lip and peppering her forehead. Liara gently applied pressure on her lover's breast, squeezing it before brushing the pad of her thumb across the pert nipple. The woman above her flinched and shuddered slightly before lowering herself onto the asari once more, her eyes squeezed shut as she continued to rock erratically.

Shepard clutched at the bedsheets beneath them, the sensations coursing through her forcing her to buck and grind with an almost desperate ferocity. Liara lifted her free leg over her lover's hip now, her calf pressed firmly against the human's behind and guiding her pelvis into a more concentrated rhythm. From the way Shepard huffed against her neck, she could tell the action was approved of. Streaks of light crept in around the edge of her vision as her own nervous system became increasingly overwhelmed by the bonding.

Each meeting of their skin left a shock of euphoria pulsing throughout Liara's body, each caress of breath against flesh caused a sense of contentment to ebb and flow through her entire being. The swell of raw emotion within her pushed a murmur from her throat and she could feel Shepard respond to the sound, her excitement flaring instantly. A whimper came soon after and Liara could tell the human woman wanted to say something but could not force her body to cooperate.

Allowing her hands to roam over tense shoulders, Liara dragged her nails across Shepard's skin, receiving more whimpers in response. Short bursts of air brushed against the asari's ear and the tightness in her lover's muscles gradually increased. With the little coherency she had left, Liara knew that the woman above her needed release, and she needed it now. She turned her head towards Shepard's, her lips briefly caressing the clammy skin at the human's hairline.

As her lover's hips continued to buck against her, Liara caught a glimpse of Shepard's eyes as she lifted her head momentarily. The woman's brow was creased and there was a vulnerability in those grey depths, a window into the most hidden of places within the Commander that Liara had successfully stripped bare. It took her breath away. And then Shepard buried her face in the pillow below her, auburn strands clinging to the side of her face and splaying across the light fabric.

The asari placed her lips next to her lover's ear, pausing as she listened to ragged breaths and the sounds of their jolted rocking. She then raised her leg further, slowly at first, ensuring her thigh pushed against Shepard's groin with a tantalising pressure. A sound caught in the human's throat and a shudder passed through her body.

In a very deliberate low tone, Liara whispered into Shepard's ear. "Let go."

Her lover gasped as she lifted her thigh upwards abruptly, the teasing movements from before replaced with a focused intent. She heard Shepard suck in a breath suddenly as her muscles tensed and her body was rocked by tremors. Simultaneously, the shreds of light dancing about the edge of her consciousness now erupted and engulfed her completely. Her body was consumed by an indescribable sensation of floating and yet falling at the same time. Pleasure prickled across her nerves like fine drops of rain and her psyche was enveloped by a symphony of undiluted ecstasy, from both her and her bondmate.

The stiffened body in Liara's arms continued to shudder uncontrollably as she, herself, was consumed by the pleasure of that one moment. Every remaining defence that Shepard had crumbled and the asari felt every part of her being. It was a brief experience but something that left her reeling, as if she had lived her entire life without air and had just taken her first breath. The fog gripping her senses began to clear and she could feel Shepard relax onto her; the human's short, sharp breaths coming in quick succession.

Feeling the slight tremble in her lover's arms, Liara placed one palm against a flushed chest and gently coaxed Shepard onto her back. She then draped herself across the human's body, resting her cheek against a welcoming shoulder. A happy but weary murmur sounded above her and a smile tugged at Liara's lips. She had never felt so content as she did in that moment. Knowing Shepard shared that sentiment filled her chest with a warmth she had never experienced before.

An arm wrapped protectively around Liara's shoulders, even in Shepard's relaxed state, and the asari allowed her own hand to wander aimlessly across her lover's smooth, pale skin. There were many things she wanted to say aloud now but she didn't want to break the serenity of the moment. With such a heavy fate looming over them, she wanted it to last for as long as possible. She suspected no amount of time spent safely in Shepard's arms would be enough, though.

Not even eternity.

Citadel Station, 2399

She had been right. It wasn't enough.

But, for the first time in the many years since Shepard's death, Liara could smile at the memories. A happiness lingered at the back of her mind, as if her bondmate was still with her, and she clung onto that. Perhaps denying herself the ability to relive these memories within her own mind had been detrimental. Perhaps she really could carry a part of Shepard with her.

Liara turned onto her side, pulling the light blanket over her cooling form. Darkness began to creep in around her as tiredness took its hold. And then she let a whisper slip past her lips, like a beacon in the cold, lonely night.

"Good night, Kristen."