"Mine?" Shepard looked at the craft docked behind the krogan not understanding.
"Yours," Wrex answered, enjoying the look of confusion now on the face of the human.
"But how?" Shepard moved past him to get a closer look at it.
Kaidan and Girard were also confused by what they had heard and just stood there speechless.
Seeing Shepard move closer to her new toy, Wrex couldn't help but think of her two escorts as unwanted guests. They should not be there. He had no personal issues with either man but he had truths to share with the woman. Truths that may break whatever ties were between the Beast and pup. But with these two here with her, he knew that words would need to be veiled and that was almost impossible for his kind. They were a blunt and honest species, not able to participate in the intricacies required for successful lies and deceptions. But Wrex had always been unique.
"Please don't tell me you traded that black thing for this ship," Shepard said.
"Something else," Wrex began to laugh as he thought of Pirene's request. The sound not only made Kaidan and Girard jump, but anyone within earshot. Shepard, seeing the reaction his laughter received, couldn't help but laugh herself.
"So tell me about this beauty," Shepard said, leaning against the rail as she looked at the salarian markings. Wrex moved next to her and began to educate them on what type of craft it was and what its capabilities were. Shepard had never seen or heard of an SK-6 Rait and upon learning that it was not only salarian designed, but constructed specifically for research and recon missions, she was pleased. It was that word recon that brought a smile to her face. "And what did you trade for her?"
"Your ass to Pirene," Wrex answered.
"What?" Shepard shot a look at Wrex and seeing that he was teasing her, hit him as she began to laugh again.
"Commander," Kaidan loved Shepard's throaty way of laughing but he didn't want her to lose focus on why they were there. He had been with her for almost eight months and knew how she could get distracted at times. Her curiosity and playfulness sometimes moved her off the playing field and this was important. A fellow Alliance brother had died and they did not know how or why.
Wrex looked over at Kaidan, eyes narrowing, as the male stepped closer to Shepard, who was busy looking at the nose of the craft and leaning farther over the railing.
"Yes?" Shepard moved back off the rail and turned to face Kaidan.
Shepard caught the seriousness in his face and shifted nearer to him, allowing him to lean in close as he whispered, "Commander, we need to know what happened to Crosby."
"Of course," Shepard nodded and, preferring to speak in private, asked Wrex if they could see the inside of the craft.
"This way," Wrex almost barked as he headed for the jet bridge.
Stepping into the craft, the first thing that Shepard noted were the small stains of salarian blood. Most people might not have seen the smears but Shepard's training made the small hints of violence stand out. Wrex caught the shift in Shepard's body and knew that she had seen something. He looked in the direction she was facing and cursed Pirene.
"What is the standard occupancy for this craft?" Shepard asked, moving away from the evidence.
"Six," Wrex answered, showing her the way to the sleeping and hygiene areas.
As Shepard toured the craft, Crosby in the back of her mind, she realized what this gift really meant ... Freedom from the Alliance. But that blood told her that a salarian or two or six may have paid with their lives to give her this freedom. Was it a good kill? An honest kill? Shepard looked over at Wrex as he explained how the bed pods worked and wondered if he had also killed Crosby. She shook the thought from her mind and tried to focus on what he was saying. He would not have betrayed her like that. Would he?
"What has life been like living on a ship full of humans?" Tareina asked Liara, curious how the asari had adapted.
"Interesting," Liara answered, adding, "But at times, I feel alone."
This confession made the listeners in the room nod at each other before turning their attention to Adyna who was sitting down to play the onai. All asari that had spent any time away from their own kind understood what she was saying. There was a connection missing that left them a little empty. Liara had felt that way on the Normandy, alone and different from the others. But she believed that those feelings were worth it because only she could help Shepard with the Prothean piece of the puzzle. Shepard. That was the new puzzle that Liara wanted to solve. She also wanted to draw the human into her and make her feel the beauty of the asari. She needed Shepard to enjoy being around her kind, because she could not see herself living in a world without her own kind.
The evening meal had reminded her how being in the presence of her family made her feel completely connected. Even as they remembered those who would no longer share these times, Liara felt at peace. Before the meal, Matriarch Livia had honored the memory of her mother and sisters just as Tatiaria honored the memory of her mother and sister. Liara had bowed her head, her heart filled with love, as she heard her Theia speak words of remembrance about her sister, Benezia. It was still hard for Liara to believe that Benezia was gone. Surrounded by members of her family, Liara half expected to see her mother enter the room and smile at her. Liara, tell me about your time on the Normandy, she imagined Benezia saying as she sat to the right of the Grameno. But that place was now filled by Tareina.
Adyna began to play one of Livia's favorite musical compositions, as Aikaterine and Aglaia began to dance together. Soon more joined the two in front of the onai but Liara chose to sit quietly and just enjoy being in the presence of her own. She wished that Shepard was there to meet her family and had learned that she had been invited to the party honoring the Matriarch's visit to the Citadel. That made her nervous. Shepard meeting her family. She prayed that they found her as pleasing as she did and that Shepard saw the beauty in her loved ones. Liara was not unaware of the resistance Aika had received when she announced her bonding to a human or how some in her family privately spoke of Liqui. That treatment had led Aika to build a home on Bekenstein just for Liqui so that no pain would come to her. Would Liara have to do the same if Shepard ever suggested that they live together? That very thought made Liara feel foolish at even entertaining the thought of living with Shepard.
"This is nice," Shepard said, as she sat down in the pilot's seat and felt the soft leather. "Once this mission is complete, I can … hmm … this could work."
"I'll have the lab and living quarters redesigned to suit your needs," Wrex said. "I have contacts here that can change whatever is necessary to make this completely functional for you."
"A chop shop?" Shepard asked, remembering the odd type salarian pods used for sleeping and the small tubes used for relieving oneself. "Toilets and showers are a must."
"Those tubes are big enough for these talJoks," Wrex said, motioning towards Girard and Kaidan.
"And you?" She teased Wrex. Seeing the pee tubes, Shepard couldn't help but wonder where Wrex had relieved himself because those tubes were only a few inches wide. She may not look at Fornax, Shepard still knew that Krogans were well-endowed and much too large for humans. Shepard's smile faded as she thought how asari were one of the few species that actually had sex with the krogan. Asari. This brought her mind around to Liara as she looked at Wrex.
Stop! Shepard's mind had started to go down a path that made her cringe.
"I've had no complaints," Wrex almost growled, bringing her mind out of that bad place.
"I believe you," Shepard turned the chair toward the front viewport, not wanting to discuss Wrex's sex life anymore, and looked out at the Citadel traffic.
"Shepard," Kaidan was stopped by Shepard's raised hand as she watched a C-Sec pull over a shuttle off in the distance. "Busted."
"What is it, chatSag?" Wrex looked at Kaidan with the desire to throw him and Girard off the ship.
"I was talking to the Commander," Kaidan answered, wishing that Shepard would turn around and face them. He had seen the small pale green stains on the craft too and hoped that Shepard had as well. Those stains told him that this ship might not have been purchased but pirated by Wrex.
"And she is talking to me," Wrex had noticed that the two males remained close to the exit after the tour and that Girard kept his right hand close to his pistol, as if that would stop him. He didn't care that these two did not trust him. She did and that was all that mattered to him.
"Did you dispose of the object in a hard to find place?" Shepard asked, ignoring the tension between Wrex and Kaidan.
"Yes," Wrex answered, shifting his armor as she turned around in the chair.
"Good," Shepard nodded as she looked at Kaidan and then back at Wrex. Did she really want to know what happened? Her mind was struggling on what to do.
"Ask," Wrex almost seemed to command her.
Shepard looked up at Wrex and in that moment, she knew that she didn't want to ask but had no choice, "What happened to Crosby?"
Wrex might have told her the truth but not while there were others around, "Slipped."
"Slipped?" Girard stepped forward.
"Slipped," Wrex repeated, his eyes narrowing as his position shifted to a stance of strength.
"I'm afraid that you will need to give us a little more than that," Shepard said, standing up. "I promised to update the Alliance … saying he slipped is a little too vague."
"Shepard," Wrex moved toward her and the two men started to move forward until she waved them away.
"Wrex," Shepard stepped towards him, "I need to know what happened to Crosby."
"The human slipped," Wrex responded, looking down at her, "that is all you need to know."
"All I need to know?" Shepard continued to meet his stare as his words echoed in her head. She knew that he was holding something back but did she really want to know? She had sent him on a mission to see that a corrupted object was buried and he had done that. Wasn't that all she needed to know? Why was she about to open a door that might lose her Beast?
"Shepard?" Kaidan stepped closer.
"Wait outside," Shepard said, looking at both men.
"Commander," Girard, like Kaidan, did not feel comfortable leaving her alone with the krogan.
"That's an order," Shepard's words cut through him as her eyes warned both men that she would not be disobeyed.
"Aye, aye, Commander," Girard snapped to attention, followed by Kaidan.
Both Shepard and Wrex watched as the two men left the craft and once they were alone they faced each other. There was only three feet between the human and the krogan, a fact that should have concerned Shepard but didn't. She knew that he could kill her and the other two without any real struggle but she still did not fear him.
"What happened to NFO Silas Crosby, Wrex?" Shepard asked again.
Wrex could see that she wanted the truth, "He put the mission at risk."
"How?" Shepard asked, clutching her fists and stepping closer to him.
Wrex could see that she was becoming angry, "He was weak and didn't understand shutting up."
"You killed him?" Shepard clenched her jaw and felt her anger growing.
"I completed the mission," Wrex stated simply.
"No," Shepard could feel the tears welling up.
"Yes," Wrex said, just as she began to hit him.
"He was under my protection!" Shepard lashed out in anger as her fist pounded into the armor of the krogan. "How could you have killed one of my men? I trusted you."
"The mission always comes first, Shepard," Wrex said, unmoved by the pounding of her fists against his chest. "If you put people or your own weakness in front of the mission, you will fail."
"The mission fails if you have to kill your own men," Shepard said angrily as her pounding began to slow. What was she going to do? She knew that her fists were useless against him and even if it wasn't, she couldn't kill him. Not the Beast.
"He was not one of my men," Wrex said as he watched her struggle against him. "He was a weak human."
"Weak," Shepard felt her legs giving out and Wrex half carried her back to the pilot's chair.
Wrex looked down at Shepard, "Yes. The human was weak."
"So any of us are disposable to you?" Shepard felt stung by his words. "I'm just a weak human, Wrex … am I disposable too?"
"If you are weak, yes," Wrex answered, disappointed that she did not understand. How had she not learned that sacrifices were sometimes demanded? Or that your ally could just as easily turn and become your enemy … or, at the least, a liability?
"I don't believe that," Shepard's voice broke as she lowered her head. "I can't believe that."
"You will fail then," Wrex almost sounded tired himself.
"Fail or succeed, I'll do it without you," Shepard slowly stood up. "I don't want your ship or you. This is where we end, Wrex."
Wrex said nothing as Shepard exited the craft that he had given her.
Livia had been carefully monitoring Liara since she had arrived and as the others were now focused on music, dancing and touching, it was time. Liara felt the Matriarch call to her as Livia headed for the garden, brushing against her mind as she went. The young asari stood up and followed, Psyria quietly taking her position just inside the garden.
Liara found the Matriarch sitting down on the stone bench, next to the fountain, as she motioned for the young asari to stand before her, "Here, daughter."
"Have I disappointed you?" Liara asked, standing where she was instructed.
"Disappointed?" Livia could see that the young asari was feeling vulnerable. "Why would I be disappointed in you, Liara?"
"I failed to protect mother," Liara answered as she sat down on her own knees in front of the Matriarch.
"No," Livia bent forward and placed her forehead on Liara's. "You were her delight. It pleased me to know that even in her darkest moment she had you there. But let that be our secret for now."
Liara could feel the warmth from Livia and closed her eyes as the Matriarch brushed softly against her mind. It was not the touch of Benezia but it was comforting to Liara. She knew that the Matriarch loved her and would do everything within her power to protect her.
"So share with me your thoughts on the humans," Livia asked, after the union of mind.
Liara's mind instantly went to Shepard and she looked down at her hands placed softly in her lap.
"Are the humans unkind?" Livia asked, lifting Liara's face up by the chin.
"Not intentionally," Liara answered. "But on the ship I am reminded of what I am. Seeing the humans interact and connect reminds me that I am not of their kind. And it is true."
"Do you not enjoy being with them?" Livia asked, even as she felt Liara's mind drift back to Shepard.
"There are some that are pleasing," Liara answered, "Dr. Chakwas has instructed me on human biology, Lt. Alenko has shown me that humans are kind and –"
"And the SpecTRe?" Livia brushed Liara's cheek. "Petrina saw an interview with the human and says that she is quite attractive. Do you feel the same?"
"Yes," Liara lowered her head again. "She brings great pleasure to me."
Livia looked over at Psyria and brushing her mind requested that she give them privacy. Liara was young and Livia did not want her youthful pain to be exposed needlessly.
Psyria gave a small bow of her head and returned to the small gathering inside.
Livia placed her forehead back against Liara's and calmed her fears. She pressed upon Benezia's daughter that her words, her feelings were shared without judgment. Her touch of mind assured the young asari that the Matriarch, her Grameno, was there to guide her and strengthen her. Nothing more.
"Will you make me leave her?" Liara whispered; the words hard to speak.
Livia pulled back from Liara but said nothing. She did not know. Liara was young and experiencing life in its first stages. This concerned Livia and Councilor Tevos because in a short time, they believed, Liara would become bored with the human and move on. Livia would need to meet Shepard and understand what the human felt and the actual risk of the relationship. If only you were the age of Petrina, Livia thought.
Petrina, Delana's youngest, had just celebrated her 350th birthday and was now ready to bond with another person. This had pleased her mother who celebrated having all four of her daughters past the age of risk. With her recent maturation, she was being transferred to Oneiroi on Illium, the same pharmaceutical company that Sibilla worked. Both Delana and Tatiaria hoped that she could keep an eye on the younger, more reckless asari.
"Grameno," Liara placed her forehead on the Matriarch's lap. "Please do not have me turn away from her. Please do not send me away."
"Silence," Livia said softly as she began to rub Liara's back and look toward the gathering inside the residence. The young asari in just a few words had revealed her deep desire for the human and Livia did not want the others to know. Not yet. Maybe never.
Liara felt the Matriarch move inside her again, telling her that the desires she felt needed to be hidden away. That her desires could not be seen by the others and that she would need to appear unmoved by the human when she arrived at the party. Liara understood what was being asked of her and felt the Matriarch giving her strength. Liara would not disobey the Matriarch, but she would also not hurt her Elizabeth. Liara thought of Aika and wondered if she could help.
Jadaran was one of the few krogan exclusive establishments left on the Citadel and the requests to allow others access was rejected by C-Sec. It was too dangerous to allow anyone except the one-ton krogans into a place that was packed almost wall to wall. Smaller species could be crushed in the Aroch Ward club and had been. The walls had streaks of blood, dirt, feces and vomit on them, along with dents where some krogan had fell or purposely rammed against in anger. This place was not for the weak or faint of heart and until you saw it, you would not believe a place like this was on the Citadel.
The stone grill, with fire shooting up from the center, was completely surrounded by krogan slamming down cuts of pyjaks, landsmir and crou-crou. Once the outside of the half alive creature was burnt, they would carry it over to a trough that circled a fight box. That trough was already filled with rotting vegetables, splashes of krogan blood and insects scurrying about. The krogan would drop the burnt meat down into the trough and begin to eat. As they devoured their meal, they would sometimes encroach on another which would lead to a fight. Now you would have a fight in the box and one outside it. This added level of rage could, at times, lead into a frenzy that spiraled down into a violent nightmare of bloody chaos in the club.
Wrex had come here to find a place to let out his anger at the pup's response to his confession. How could she still be so … so … human! Weak! Wrex stormed down into the box where two krogans were battling and knocked them both back with his body. Tonight he was going to bring a few krogans to the brink of death and all without weapons or biotics. He wanted to feel their bones break beneath his teeth, body and claws. She had not understood! Tonight a few krogan would be left bloodied and broken because a small, weak female had walked out on a krogan battlemaster. His pup had turned her back on him and he did not know how to feel about it. So he meted out his pain and confusion the only way a krogan knew how … violence.
Kaidan knew that something bad had happened between Shepard and Wrex. She had exited the craft, depleted and with a darkened face. She did not speak or even look at the two men as she moved quickly past them. Girad and Kaidan had raced after her but neither asked any questions when they caught up. The return shuttle ride to the main Citadel port was silent and tense as Shepard watched the city pass by stone faced.
Once they were back on the Normandy, she changed and headed for the punching bag. Girard and Kaidan, not wanting to leave her alone in case she blew, changed and raced to the gym after her. Girard was working out on a boxing speed bag not far from her and Kaidan was running on the treadmill as he watched her in the mirror.
Both men could see that she was still angry. Angrier, in fact. Girard thought she might also be crying but with the sweat and her hair falling down her face, he wasn't completely sure. Both men wished that they knew what had happened, what she was thinking and if they could help her. But for the time being, all they could do was stay close and be ready if she reached out.
Bob, weave, straight punch … she knew that they had followed her here, but she didn't care … bob, weave, straight punch … she didn't care about anything … bob, weave, straight punch … her burning, tearing eyes said that wasn't true … bob, weave, straight punch … fuck you, tears … jab, cross, jab, cross … fuck you, Wrex … bob, weave, straight punch … these bitter tears were for NFO Silas Crosby who she had sent to his death … jab, cross, jab, cross … because she trusted a krogan … jab, cross, jab, cross … a fucking krogan … bob, weave, straight punch … why had she trusted him … jab, cross, jab, cross … why had she started trusting any of the aliens … bob, weave, body shot … they were not like them … bob, weave, uppercut … how had she forgotten that … quick jab, hard straight punch, body shot, uppercut … he betrayed her and killed one of her own … jab, cross, jab, cross … would the other aliens betray her as well … bob, weave, body shot, uppercut ... would Liara betray her ... jab, cross, jab, cross ... I can't let them get close again ... quick jab, hard straight punch, body shot, uppercut ... I have to be more careful ... bob, weave, straight punch ... they are just using me ... bob, weave, body shot, uppercut ... why couldn't she hate him ... jab, cross, jab, cross ... why did she love her ... quick jab, hard straight punch, body shot, uppercut ... Mother, I'm so confused ... bob, weave, uppercut ... I won't hurt Liara because of this ... jab, cross, jab, cross ... Why Beast?