All characters belong to Bioware as they say.
As Liara stepped up to leave John's room he called out for her.
"Wait up, I can at least escort you out Shadow Broker."
Liara smiled a small smile, she still had feelings for John, but she knew it was over and her chance was gone. She did really mean it when she wished John and Tali luck in their relationship. She glanced at his light brown skin and brown eyes, wishing he was coming to be with her.
"John, I didn't see Tali on my tour, I would like a holo of the remaining SR-1 crew members if you think that is alright."
"I'm sure it will be fine, everyone should be getting ready for dinner, I'm sure we can catch them there, except maybe Joker. We're just orbiting above the Shadow, I mean your ship so who knows?" John pressed the button and waited for the elevator.
"John, I'll give you whatever information I can, there is just so much now. With the agents reporting in over the last few days it can be overwhelming."
"I know you'll get the hang of it, besides, Feron will be able to help if he doesn't kill the assistant."
A small chuckle left Liara's lips, "Yes, I suppose so. Getting a new crew will help out a lot when I can find trustworthy people. Thanks for letting your crew help make repairs."
A few days of a different type of work were fine. John noticed the crew seemed to enjoy a break from the normal routine. Besides, over the last week he had gotten 4 weapons upgrades, tons of minerals, credits from sponsoring missions, and best of all, a new ship model for his cabin.
The elevator came and opened, and they stepped in.
"Are Dr. Chawkas, Garrus, Tali, and Joker at the mess?"
"All but Joker, he is waiting for the elevator to join everyone for Dinner."
"Okay EDI, let's stop for him."
Joker saw the elevator open and was surprised to see Liara and Shepard together, and what seemed to him, a little closer than just friends. He told him on the SR-1, don't shit where you lay, but the great Commander Shepard, just went ahead anyways.
"Getting off, Liara?" Joker asked implying more.
"No Joker, we are going to see Tali, Garrus, and the Doctor, I want a holo of the old crew, you included."
Joker looked at Sheperd and shook his head, Tali was going to flip, why would he do this to her? If he dumped her like this, savior or not, he was going to give Shepard a piece of his mind. As the door closed he looked a Liara.
"So, any freaky big black eyes stuff I should know about before Tali whips out that knife and stabs one of you?"
"Jeez Joker, nothing is going on. She wants a holo and then she's leaving for her ship."
Joker smiled, "Either way, I'm going to enjoy being in the peanut gallery for this."
"Peanut Gallery Shepard?"
"Don't worry Liara, he just wants to egg people on, since there is nothing happening, there is nothing to egg on." Then in a more authoritative tone "Right Joker?"
Joker muttered, "Oh yeah, right, everything's peachy." Why are the elevators so damn slow he wondered to himself.
In the mess hall, most of the crew had gathered for dinner. Everyone was off of the Shadow Broker's ship and ready to move on. It was rare for almost the whole crew to be there. But, with EDI able to control the ship while repairs were being done on both her and Liara's ship, people could gather all at once.
Tali sat near the front of the main table, nervous, legs crossed, and slowly bouncing. Everyone knew Liara had gone to Shepard's cabin, most where wondering if the Commander was really with Tali. Even if he was, could he pass up on an old flame? Or so the rumor went. Tali had avoided Liara on her tour of the ship. Kasumi sat next to her friend and was trying to console her and the made up fears she knew she was having. She was one of the few that knew of the relationship.
In a whisper that couldn't be heard over the dull roar of dinner conversation, she kept talking to Tali.
"Tali, he chose you, and you have been seeing him since we got back from the Omega-4 relay. Don't worry, what could an Asari have over you, any one of them?" And she smiled, but realized that might not have been the best thing to say. Kasumi sighed and looked across the table to Garrus for help. Garrus just shrugged his shoulders as he had seen humans do when they did not know what to say. He hoped Shepard wouldn't leave Tali. No he thought, Shepard isn't capable of that…is he?
The elevator opened and Joker raced out, well, as fast as he could limp with a goofy smile on his face.
"I want good seats for this one commander." Joker went to the left to get to the mess hall.
Liara chuckled, as John shook his head. Tali knew what she meant to him right? It had been a short time, but he knew what she had done to be with him and he would not have picked her if he wasn't ready for her to be the only women in his life. He had read what he could about the Quarians, even on the SR-1. They couldn't afford to be promiscuous with the suits and immune system and being with a new alien species left more unknowns. He wouldn't just have a one night stand with her. It's just a holo with some old and good friends, what could go wrong? Famous last words he thought as he and Liara went to the right and walked into the mess hall.
As John and Liara entered everyone turned and as they saw them, went silent. Some of the crew that were leaving since they knew the elevator was on the floor turned around and leaned against the wall. All eyes were on the Commander. Some glanced over to Tali so see if there was a reaction, to see if the rumors where true.
Shepard cleared his throat. May be this wasn't such a good idea after all. "Well everyone we are just here to get a holo of the SR-1 members for Liara. Dr. Chawkas, Garrus, Joker, you have second? We can just go to Port Observation and take it against the window."
Garrus and Dr. Chawkas nodded. Garrus got up from his chair and headed towards Shepard. Dr. Chawkas stood up from the other end of the table and also started walking over.
"It's good to see you again Liara. Need anything before you head back?"
"Oh no doctor, I'm fine", Liara said as she kept pressing into the room to the second table and saw Tali facing away from her seemingly oblivious to her presence. As Shepard came up to the table Kasumi turned around in her chair, and shot him daggers with her eyes, and a smirk that was not pleasant. She mouthed something, but he couldn't quite make it out. It didn't seem pleasant though. Shepard was really having second thoughts now. He looked around the room, the crew were waiting for something to happen, the ground team members present seemed interested to say the least too.
Jack was playing her usual I don't give a fuck routine, but Miranda seemed to have a small smile on the edge of her lips. She had not taken his rejection well, and if Tali lost out too, especially after being with him, all the better as far as she was concerned. Miranda had seen who took to the elevator to the Commander's cabin before the Omega-4 relay in the logs. She still thought it should have been her. With the Asari light years away, she would have worn Shepard down eventually. But, Tali was always around.
Grunt looked at his battlemaster. He knew only the strongest should be his mate. He had heard the rumors too, but with the Quarian in her suit he could only smell the pheromones from the other women on the ship and now the Asari he brought in. The women's levels had all fallen off recently as the contest for his affections seemed to end, but in the suit he didn't know what the Quarian's body was really doing. He had faith Shepard would chose the strongest, his battlemaster had not let him down so far.
Thane and Samara just exchanged knowing glances and waited for what was to come. Gabby also shot the commander daggers, she saw them in the engine room, how could he do this to Tali? Ken watched and just thought about the money he had wagered on who the commanders love interest was. Looks like they would all finally find out. The Asari added a new mix to the ship wide betting, but being in engineering he had bet on Tali, and convinced Gabby it was sure money. Most of the operations department had bet on the XO, Ken thought it must have been because of fear. No CO of any ship he had ever been on had visited engineering that much, besides, he had to make up for the 500 credits he lost to Shepard in the "newbies" poker game.
Finally, Liara approached Tali and placed a hand on her shoulder to get her attention. Tali jumped, shaken from her world of thoughts and swiveled around in the chair. Facing her competition? Rival? Friend? Whatever she was, Tali wanted her gone and to just leave her and Shepard alone. She won his heart over everyone else and now this happens. Maybe the ancestors were trying to punish her, but she wanted it so badly. Her eyes had opened wide when she turned around, now they were narrowing, questioning, now looking angry.
Liara started, "Tali, it is good to see…"
Tali tensed up, she couldn't control it, it wasn't fair, she finally had some happiness again after all these years. Tears started to form under the helmet, then to everyone's surprise, especially Tali's, the words just came out.
"He…he's mine." It started shaky, but ended as a sure statement. The room turned to Liara.
"Tali, I am sorry if …."
Tali stood up right in front of Liara, "No, you can't have him!" The words were sure, direct; Tali's eyes bore into Liara.
"Tali'Zorah! Please let me finish. No one is here to take John from you. After hearing how he has talked about you over the past week, I do not think it would be possible for anyone to do it. Least of all me!" Liara seemed a little sad at the end of her statement, but quickly recovered as she noticed everyone looking at them.
Tali's cheeks blushed and her eyes widened as she processed what Liara said. Kasumi was smiling and give Shepard an approving nod. Shepard was still shocked at Tali's outburst, but liked the fact they were finally out in the open. The crew started to whisper and omni-tools lit up around the mess hall.
Tali fidgeted and wrung her hands together, embarrassed at her outburst to her old friend.
"I'm sorry Liara, I umm…oh Keelah...should have known better. Umm….what do you want? Ahhh…I'm sorry."
Tali was looking at the floor not sure what to do next.
"It's okay Tali, I understand the feeling. But, it's good you got it out in the open. Sneaking around on the old Normandy was no fun. The Commander should be open about his relationships. For everyone's sake."
Shepard could feel the conversation turning against him and tried to change the subject.
"Let's get the Holo everyone, to Port Observation. Okay?"
Then to Shepard's dismay, Joker spoke up from across the room.
"Yeah, Liara, what sneaking around was going on around the first Normandy?"
"Shepard, is this the peanut gallery you spoke of before? Human humor?"
"Yes, thank you Joker, let's just move.."
Before he could finish, Ken broke from his smile to a full shout "Yes! Eat it ops!"
Hawthorne responded, "Yeah, yeah, guess you have to be a couple to work in engineering isn't that right Gabby?"
Gabby blushed a bit and stepped back. Liara smiled and spoke up.
"Just like the old Normandy, the crew betting on your social life Commander?"
Shepard looked disapprovingly at Donnelly "Okay, Ken how much since you seem to be so happy about it?"
"I got 4000 credits, thanks for coming through Commander, I know you didn't come down to engineering just to talk my lovely face. But, I don't mind. Tali's odds make the winning sweeter lass."
Hawthorne retorted, "That's okay, I just won 1000 credits on you and Gabby."
Ken turned to Gabby who was bright red and then to Hawthorne, "How did anyone know, we were…"
"I didn't until you just confirmed it. HA!" More omni-tools lit up as credits passed around the crew once more. Ken grabbed Gabby's hand, "Well if the Commander can come out, so can we. There are no Cerberus rules anymore."
Miranda was not happy about the recent turn of events. Relationships, betting, she must have been slacking as the suicide mission approached. Then another idea came to her. "EDI, what were the odds on the Commander?"
"Operative Lawson, they were 3 to 1 on you, 5 to 1 on Miss Zorah, 7 to 1 on Miss Chambers, and 10 to 1 on Jack. When Dr. T'soni came back, her odds where 4 to 1."
Miranda hadn't expected the odds to be that close, had she pushed Shepard away that badly? What had she done wrong? Everything was going her way until TIM had sent Shepard Tali's dossier and he dropped everything to go to her immediately.
Shepard sighed and tried to get things moving again, "Okay, great, we can talk about the betting later, can we go take the Holo now?"
Then the last person Shepard wanted to speak did. With a small spread of his mandibles, Garrus stepped back to the table.
"You know Liara, some of use lost a bunch of money on the Commander on the SR-1 on his, ahem, social life. Can you dispel the rumors? How did you wind up with the commander?"
Liara chuckled, "You know, it wouldn't be a bad idea for the crew to realize Shepard is only human."
Tali looked over at John and saw the unease in his stance as he tried to close out the situation. He could use a good teasing she thought. Besides, getting information from him was like pulling teeth.
"Yes, Liara let's all hear, I'd like to know about the things John might not tell me."
The crew came close and got ready to hear about the Commander in a new way. Shepard for his part tried to back out of the room, but a small thief appeared behind him and said, "Please, you're the guest of honor, the crew does need to know you're a mere mortal, take a seat." Shepard signed and sat down next to Liara with Tali on her other side.
"Well Garrus, what do you want to know?"
"How about how you beat out Ashley, we heard things, but never knew the truth."
John put his head on the table and waited for the inevitable. This was the worst that could have happened he guessed. All he had to do was let Liara leave.
"Well, she was the easiest to beat of the 2 rivals. I just invited her to a three way with John and I and she stormed out of the room. I knew she wouldn't accept, she hadn't faced someone like me before."
Eyes around the mess hall all popped open, half of them had their jaws open too. Kasumi nudged Shepard, "You dog Shepard, didn't know you had it in you."
Grunt smiled and let out a loud "HA! I knew my Battlemaster was strong, two women."
Tali was as shocked as everyone else. Then she giggling stating, "Before anyone asks, it's NOT going to happen, right John."
Shepard continued to rest his head on the table. "Of course not Tali. Thanks for the vote of confidence Grunt, really. Anything else Garrus? Can we just go take the Holo now?"
Garrus had a smug pleased look on his face, or at least for a Turian. Then Donnelly spoke for the crew, "Ey' no way commander, you're just getting interesting, what else is there?"
Liara looked at Tali who nodded to continue, mischief in her eyes. "Well then…"
Then Tali interrupted, "Wait, you said two rivals. Who was the second one and how was she tougher than Ashely. I remember Ash really tried hard. Who else was there besides you and Ash?"
"You were the hardest rival Tali."
Tali jumped in her seat. "Me, how could that be, we weren't …..involved then." She blushed under her helmet and fidgeted in her seat. At this, John perked up; maybe things would swing away from him now.
"Well Tali, you had your four helpers."
Tali looked at Liara questionably, her eyes opening up.
"Well, you had Garrus, Wrex, Adams, and Dr. Chawkas. They all tried to push Shepard towards you. Wait, you didn't know?"
Tali looked around the room at the mentioned names present.
Dr. Chawkas just smiled and said "Guilty as charged. Not that I didn't like you too Liara."
Then everyone looked at Garrus.
"Hey, why do you think Wrex and I hung around, Shepard was talking to Tali from the moment she came aboard. Figured if he liked an alien that way he was worth a shot hanging around with."
"Really Shepard, why do you think they were all getting you to talk to Tali. I had to make sure I was always around if she wasn't."
"What are talking about? I thought they just wanted me to make sure she was okay, you know…ahhhh… home sickness and all."
Garrus's laughed, "No one's buying it boss."
"Men, always so dense. The Commander is no exception." Chawkas smirked. "It was obvious to everyone but you two."
Tali stammered, "Are we talking about the same ship? Shepard was just a good friend at the time." Chuckles and laughter came from the room.
Thane looked at the Commander, "Sometimes we don't know what's right in front of us. Luckily you got second chance."
Miranda, agitated, spoke out, "Shepard comes back 2 years later thinking he is still with you, and a month later he's with..with…some..one else, and everything's fine?" She chose her words carefully; she didn't want to piss of Shepard over what she called the alien.
"It was a long 2 years, we all changed. We are different people now. I prevented Tali and John before, I can't do it again."
Samara looked at Liara, "You gain wisdom quickly for one so young. You're tenure as Shadow Broker should be interesting."
"You're just pissed your cheerleading ass isn't as perfect as you think. Bitch." Jack and Miranda glared at each other. Shepard had gone out of his way for both of them and it amounted to nothing more. Jack had moved on to someone else, but Miranda was hung up. She had been toying with Jacob, much to Kasumi's dismay.
"Well, in looking through the Shadow Broker's files I found some interesting things on the Commander and his feeling towards Tali. Maybe I should share them?"
Nods and approvals meet the request. Shepard just put his head back on the table and waited for the next round. What could the Shadow Broker have on him about Tali that could be so bad anyways? What's the worst it could be? Then again, that's the thought process that got him in this situation. He sighed and waited.