Hey guys! I'm going to be on the radio. n_n I'll be discussing Mass Effect femslash fic with N.Q. Wilder and Sisirongana.

h t t p : / / w w w . b l o g t a l k r a d i o . c o m / a l l a i n e / 2 0 1 2 / 0 4 / 2 6 / m a s s - a p p e a l - - f e m s h e p - a n d - m a s s - e f f e c t - f e m s l a s h

The show is on April 25th, but will be there afterward in the archives if you can't listen live. Also, beware, there's some pretty intense 'embracing eternity' in the third part of this chapter. Yeah, I can't NOT write smut most of the time.


Chapter Four:

Tali's eyebrows lifted behind the visor of her mask as an unexpected visitor entered the Admiral War Room. She wasn't alarmed, since anyone that could get past security without being stopped was almost certainly a friend or ally, but she was surprised when she saw who her uninvited guest was. "Good morning, Shadow Broker. What brings you up to the Flotilla? Is Shepard all right?"

"It's just Liara, Tali, please. The other Admirals aren't here. And Shepard is being insufferable, as usual."

"I suppose you can't really be Shadow Broker anymore anyway, with all the Mass Relays gone and the communication buoys out of commission."

The asari nodded. "It truly amazes me that our entire communication network was reliant on technology we didn't understand. Part of this problem is of our own making."

"Is that why Shepard is being insufferable?" Tali asked.

"No. Shepard is being insufferable because she keeps trying to... invite physical attention that she is not capable of handling. I had to get away."

In the past, Tali would have been embarrassed by that topic of conversation, or perhaps a little jealous, but now she was just amused. "Well, she did get you pregnant during a Reaper invasion. Sometimes I wonder about her priorities... Did you leave anyone from the squad to babysit her?"

"I left her with Miranda."

"Miranda? Really? I know Shepard is loyal, but I would be uncomfortable leaving my bondmate alone with the most beautiful human I've ever met after turning her down for a roll on the quilt."

Liara raised her eyebrows at the decidedly quarian expression, and then smirked. "I left Jack with her as well," she revealed.

"So, you left Shepard with the most beautiful human woman I've ever met and the most insane human woman I've ever met. If that doesn't show trust, nothing will."

"Trust, or a profound lack of judgment. I probably don't want to know what kind of trouble Jack is encouraging Shepard to get into right now. Anyway, I'm here to talk about the Mass Relays. I might have some data that could help you."

Even though the visor hid Tali's true facial expression, Liara could hear her voice light up with excitement. "What kind of data?"

"Remember when Shepard, Ashley, and I completed the mission on Ilos? The Prothean VI, Vigil, said that the scientists constructed a miniature, prototype Mass Relay: a back door into the Citadel. He gave us a data disk before we went to stop Saren."

"Did that disk have schematics for the Mass Relays?" Tali asked, trying not to get her hopes too high.

"Yes. Of course, since we already had an entire system of working Mass Relays at the time, I didn't think that studying the information was urgent. That was a mistake."

The quarian frowned. "It's been almost three months now, Liara. The quarians and turians have already gone through a large portion of their supplies. Why didn't you bring this to our attention earlier?"

Liara didn't seem offended by the question. In fact, her expression was a little regretful. "It was all written in Prothean. Vigil included a program to help with the translation, and Javik modified it on the Normandy, but I had to do a great deal of the work myself, and I am not what you would call fluent in the language. It wasn't easy. The Prothean written language is from one of their early periods, since their later technology allowed them to share memories, concepts, and data through touch."

"Like the Prothean beacon on Eden Prime?" Tali asked.

"Yes. Beacons, memory shards... Very little was actually written down. Perhaps they transcribed their blueprints into the old language, knowing that the species of the next cycle might not evolve with the same unique capabilities."

Tali couldn't help asking another question. "Weren't all of your computers on the Normandy?" Liara nodded. "Then why do you still have the disk?"

"I don't. I have a copy. Several copies, in fact. I might have started my career as an archaeologist, but I learned a thing or two as an information broker. The first rule of information brokering is to never talk about information brokering. The second rule is always back up your data. If you lose it, you lose all your contacts, leverage, and credits."

The asari reached into the pocket of her lab coat and handed Tali a disk. "Here are the schematics, freshly translated into multiple languages, including English and Thessian just to name a few. They are incomplete, but I believe the scientists and engineers that were working on the Crucible will be able to make use of them."

For the first time since the defeat of the Reapers, Tali allowed herself to feel optimistic. With intergalactic travel reestablished, the quarians and turians could find other planets capable of supporting dexro-protein species. And if Garrus was alive out there – he had to be alive – rebuilding the Mass Relays would allow her to search for him and the rest of the Normandy's crew.

"Finding the materials should not be difficult. There is always plenty of Eezo around, even in this system. We can use what is left of the Reapers and the scrap metal from the Citadel to build the braces. We'll need to find a chemist to analyze the metallic formula... Wait, why did you give this to me? Me, of all people?"

Liara blinked. "Because you're my friend?"

"Besides that."

"Because you are one of the highest ranking quarians on the Migrant Fleet now?"

Tali tucked one foot behind the other and bowed her head slightly, embarrassed at the reminder. "Oh, yes. Sometimes I forget."

The asari smiled and gave the quarian's upper arm a gentle squeeze. "You earned it, Tali, even though it might not feel like that right now. I can hardly believe how much has changed in the past few years."

Instead of reflecting, Tali headed over to the nearest terminal and inserted the data disk, typing away at the flat, light-based, touch-sensitive keyboard. "I'll forward this information to Admiral Hackett, Dr. Cole, and the remaining scientists from the Crucible project. How many credits do you want to wager that my inbox will be full of questions in the next ten minutes?"

"I wouldn't waste my credits on a bet like that." Liara didn't mention that, essentially, the credit system was currently inoperable. People had resorted to something similar to the barter system. Ships, food, weapons, medical equipment, and other resources were the new currency. Hopefully, once communication was reestablished, she could access the fortune she had made while working as the Shadow Broker again. If she had been able to, though, she would have bought stock in Eezo mining companies. She had a feeling they were going to need a lot of Element Zero to fill the Mass Effect cores once they were ready to be built.

. . .

"And she cut you off?" Jack exclaimed as Shepard finished her story. "That sucks, Shep. Is it because she's knocked up?"

"No," the Commander pouted. She wasn't normally the type to complain, but it had been frustrating watching Liara slave over data tablets and mutter under her breath about conjugating verbs while she was trying to get her bondmate's attention. "She claims she's 'busy', but that's bullshit."

"Maybe she actually is busy," Miranda suggested neutrally.

"No. She's just handling me with kid gloves. I don't know what she thinks she's going to do. Almost burn me alive, stop my heart, and break my new foot off again? Been there, done that."

The ex-Cerberus operative frowned. "I spent a lot of time, money, and effort putting you back together, Shepard. Both times. It wasn't easy. I expect you to take better care of your body on the third go-around."

"Shepard knows how to take care of her body," Jack said, nudging the Commander's side with her elbow. "She just wants to take it for a test drive. Right? Gotta make sure everything is working properly. Liara's a scientist, she should go for that. Just call it an experiment."

"Liara is right here, and currently wondering why you three are gossiping like a bunch of young Huntresses on leave." The asari stood in the doorway, arms crossed, her foot tapping on the tiled floor. "Especially since I have been sending messages to your Omni-tool for the past hour."

With a sheepish look, Shepard retrieved her Omni-tool from the bedside table. It had several unanswered messages from Liara, in addition to correspondences from Tali, Admiral Hackett, Wrex, and several other high-ranking military leaders. "Do you want to explain why everyone wants to talk to me all of a sudden?" the Commander asked, her forehead creasing. The last thing she wanted to hear was more bad news. Aside from her reunion with the remainder of her squad, Liara's pregnancy, and her medical progress, almost all of the news she had received lately came in flavors of bad, worse, and worst.

"Well, while I was slaving over data tablets instead of servicing you, I might have been able to translate the schematics for the miniature Mass Relay we found on Ilos."

Shepard looked appropriately cowed. "Heard all that, did you?"

Jack rolled her eyes. "Worry about your lover's tiff later. Did it work, T'Soni? Will everyone be able to go home?"

"It's too soon to say, but we're closer now than we were before."

Even Miranda seemed excited by the news. "Congratulations, Liara. Maybe your daughter will be able to see Thessia after all."

"I do not think it is a matter of 'if' we can rebuild the Mass Relays, but 'when'. I have almost nine hundred years left to wait, but the turians and quarians do not have the luxury of time. The krogan, the salarians and the asari can adapt to Earth's ecosystem, but there is no way one small planet devastated by war can sustain us all. That was the reason humans took to the stars in the first place."

"I've never been to the home planet until now," Miranda admitted. In the past, she wouldn't have revealed personal information about herself so casually, but for the first time in her life, she had friends to confide in. "I wish I could have seen it before the destruction."

"London, maybe. Not the Seattle/Vancouver megalopolis," Shepard said, a shadow crossing her face. "It wasn't so bad when I came back to stand trial, but before... that's where I grew up. Wasn't so pretty then." Now, the Reapers had leveled it to the ground. The city where Shepard struggled to survive during her childhood was completely destroyed.

Liara moved to stand beside the bed, threading her fingers through Shepard's hair. She adored playing with her lover's hair, partially because the soft texture was so alien to her. "We will rebuild it and make it better. This is humanity's chance to create the Earth they dreamed about for their children."

"Yeah, yeah, you should be on motivational vids," Jack mumbled, but Liara could tell that she was still pleased at the thought of Mass Relay travel being reestablished.

"If the Mass Relays do come back up, where do you think you'll go?" Shepard asked Jack and Miranda. To be honest, she wasn't sure where she would go, aside from searching for her missing ship and crewmembers.

The Commander wasn't too surprised to see Jack look at Miranda instead of answering right away. "I don't know," Miranda said, a slight wrinkle marring her perfect complexion as she thought about it. "When I haven't been dashing around the galaxy trying to save my sister, my place has mostly been by your side. Before that, it was with Cerberus, but that's a past life I don't want to revisit."

Jack had a clearer idea of what she wanted to accomplish now that the war was over. "I want to re-found Grissom Academy. But," she cast a sideways glance at Shepard, "it doesn't have to be in the same place. That old station was useless anyway. For now, I guess I'll start on Earth."

Shepard was flattered and a little frightened by the notion that Jack might be sticking around longer than she had expected. On the one hand, Jack was her friend and ally. On the other, she had a baby on the way, and there were no bad guys for Jack to blow up with her biotics when she wanted a little stress relief. Hopefully, if she helped rebuild Grissom, her excess energy would be put to good use instead of causing trouble for Shepard.

Suddenly, Shepard realized that she hadn't thought to ask Liara what she wanted. She didn't know, and that bothered her, since she almost always knew what Liara would think about any situation. "What about you, Liara? Where do you want to go?"

'Wherever you go.' Shepard blinked. "Let's just take things as they come," Liara suggested aloud. "I think all of us agree that our top priorities are fixing the Mass Relay system and trying to find the Normandy."

"You know what sucks?" Jack said. "We did it. We destroyed the Reapers and saved Earth. But it doesn't feel like we've won yet. If we don't fix the Mass Relays, we're all fucked."

As indelicately as she had put it, the other three had to admit that Jack was right. The truth was that there were at least six civilizations – more, if you counted the elcor, hanar, and volus military forces – trapped on one dying planet. Unless things changed, they were all just dying a slow death. The storm was gone, but their ship was still lost at sea.

"We have a plan of action now," Shepard said, instinctively trying to boost her squad's morale, even though they weren't technically her squad anymore. "The Mass Relays will be rebuilt, and if we've proven anything during this war, it's that we're a hardy bunch. If the Reapers couldn't stop us, a little thing like physics won't stand in our way."

Liara decided not to comment on Shepard's lack of respect for the 'little thing' that was physics.

. . .

"Shepard! What are you doing?" Liara cried out, throwing up her hands and rushing forward to grip her errant bondmate's arm. "You are not supposed to be out of bed!"

"Aw, c'mon, Liara," Shepard said, giving the asari her best puppy dog eyes. "I'm still in my room... I just wanted to stand and test out my new foot."

"That new foot is why you are not supposed to stand," Liara pointed out. "There might still be complications while your nerves are rebuilding themselves."

"But it feels fine..." the human protested.

"That isn't the point. You could cause yourself irreversible damage by walking around too soon, and that isn't even taking your other injuries into consideration."

Shepard rolled her eyes. "What if I hopped on one foot?" she asked, balancing on her good leg with her arms outstretched, teetering slightly back and forth.

"Goddess, that's even worse, you stubborn... get back in bed. Now," she added firmly when Shepard didn't move.

Sulkily, the Commander limped back to her bed and sat down on the mattress, slouching over with her elbows on her knees and holding her chin in both hands. "I'm just so bored!" she complained. "I know I wanted a peaceful life after the war, but I didn't count on being trapped in a hospital bed for over three months."

"Beds can be very useful," Liara pointed out, sitting beside Shepard and squeezing her thigh just above the knee. "You do enjoy lying in them from time to time..."

"With you. Naked. Doing other things. Not lying by myself staring at the ceiling."

Liara thought about that. "Will your hospital prison sentence be more tolerable if I join you?" She didn't bother waiting for Shepard to answer. Instead, she began taking off her lab coat. Shepard's eyes widened. Three months without the union was far too long in her book. That probably wasn't what Liara had in mind, but her heartbeat thumped faster anyway.

"Oh, don't look at me like that," the asari scolded as she shimmied out of her pants, even though she was secretly pleased. She hoped Shepard would continue to find her desirable when she really started to show. For now, her figure was mostly unchanged.

"Can you blame me?" Shepard felt her mouth go dry and moisture flood to other parts of her body as Liara pulled her undershirt over her head. She glanced one last time at the door to Shepard's private room, and since there was no lock, she used her biotics to move two chairs in front of it. There always seemed to be chairs in Shepard's room, since so many people kept coming to visit. She hoped that no one got the urge to check in on them for at least the next half hour.

"I waited two years for you to come back from the dead the first time, six months while you were imprisoned before your trial here on Earth, and three more now. You were dead or unconscious for the majority of the two year and three month periods, so you have no right to complain."

Shepard was barely listening to Liara. Instead, the human's eyes were glued to her breasts, which were capped with dark blue nipples that were slightly longer and thicker than her own. Realizing that Shepard's attention was focused elsewhere, Liara stopped her monologue and crawled into bed beside the distracted Commander, burrowing under the covers. "Lie down," she instructed, draping one bare arm over Shepard's hip when the human obeyed. "You should have no reason to leave your bed now."

Instead of lying complacent while Liara spooned her from behind, Shepard flipped underneath the asari's arm and turned to face her. "If you're trying to encourage me to be less physically active, you're doin' it the wrong way," the Commander said, cupping Liara's chin and leaning forward for a kiss.

The asari gave in, but only for a few moments. Kissing Shepard was something she had missed while the human recovered, and now that she was awake, Liara intended to take full advantage. "Your body isn't ready for that kind of exertion. However, there is nothing wrong with my body..."

Shepard blinked, not fully understanding, until Liara leaned close to whisper in her ear. When she listened to her bondmate's suggestion, her eyebrows flew up in surprise. Asari and human physiologies were remarkably similar, given that they had evolved light years apart. Liara had theories about that; either a common spacefaring ancestor, heavy genetic modifications from the Protheans, or both, but despite the similarities, there were still some key differences. Aside from the obvious ones – their blue skin, their sculpted crests – there were other, more subtle variances that couldn't be seen with the naked eye.

"But you told me you can't..." Shepard still didn't fully understand why asari couldn't climax without the union, since they had mostly the same parts with only a few minor differences. Still, the possessive side of her couldn't help enjoying the fact that Liara needed her to orgasm. Ego probably had something to do with it.

Liara began pressing kisses all over Shepard's face, which had escaped the final battle relatively undamaged this time. The superficial bruising was almost completely gone, but Liara kissed it anyway, underneath Shepard's cheekbone, along the side of her cheek, and trailing down to her lower jaw. The scars on Shepard's face from the first Lazarus project were gone, but Liara distinctly remembered where they had been, and brushed her lips over that spot out of habit.

"I can if I join with you. You will feel everything I feel."

That was another key difference that came with having an asari lover. When they joined, Shepard felt her own touch while she was making love to Liara, and they always released together. There were moments when she loved the extra stimulation, and moments when it frustrated her because it disrupted her concentration (probably the ego thing again). But what Liara was suggesting would allow her to share in her lover's pleasure without moving a muscle. If she could manage to hold still while Liara touched herself, anyway...

Before she realized what was happening, her hands were caressing Liara's inner thighs, and the asari had to gently guide them away. "At least let me hold you," Shepard pleaded, not even trying to hide the begging note in her voice. Liara rolled over onto her side and let out a happy sigh as she snuggled back against her bondmate's soft chest. Since Shepard was wearing only underwear and a clean white hospital shirt, she could feel the warmth of the human's legs tangling with hers, their knees bending together.

At first, Liara wasn't sure how to begin. They had never done anything like this together before. But then Shepard began kissing her throat, nuzzling behind one of the sensitive folds there and occasionally nibbling with her teeth. Her breath hitched. "Mmm... Just doing a little of this won't set back my recovery, right?" Shepard purred, her breath skating over the wet patch of blue skin that her mouth had just abandoned and making Liara shiver.

"N-no, I don't think so." She always loved it when Shepard paid attention to her crest, especially the sculpted dips and folds that began behind her head and extended down along the sides and back of her neck.

"You don't need to be shy," the Commander whispered. "It's just me."

Taking that statement as tacit permission, Liara reached out to brush against her lover's consciousness, her eyes flaring black.

So warm, so safe and familiar in Shepard's thoughts. Like coming home. Minds touched, welcoming each other with an invisible embrace.

The love and openness of their bond satisfied the human for a little while, but soon she began feeling restless again. She laced her fingers through Liara's and slowly guided both of their hands down the asari's stomach. A brief pulse of fear mixed with excitement shivered across the bond. Even though she had been the one to suggest this, it was outside the realm of Liara's sexual experience, and she was slightly wary.

And then Shepard was there. Reassuring. Coaxing.

Liara let out a low hum of pleasure as their joined hands cupped between her parted thighs. With the meld, it was almost difficult to tell their hands apart. Eventually, Liara had to look down and see which one wasn't blue in order to move Shepard's hand out of the way. The human protested across their mental link.

'Please. Want to...'

It was hard to come up with reasons to prevent Shepard from touching her, especially since she could feel her lover's need flaring within her. But it was the principle of the thing. If she let Shepard break this rule, the human would keep looking for excuses to break others until she was skydiving from the few London skyscrapers that hadn't been blown to rubble instead of recuperating.

'Close your eyes...' Liara thought within Shepard's mind, but felt strong resistance to that idea. If she couldn't touch, the human at least wanted to see what was happening.

Liara couldn't deny her lover that small consolation. She allowed Shepard to watch from over her shoulder as her hand moved back between her legs. It felt good, better than she expected, and it was her eyes that closed instead. Her head tilted back, resting against Shepard's shoulder as her lips parted to take in a ragged gasp.

At first, Liara tried to touch herself as she knew Shepard enjoyed being touched. One of the many benefits of the union was knowing exactly where to focus, how much pressure and speed to use, exactly which seductive phrases to whisper. But then Shepard's teeth grazed her exposed throat, and the human's hand covered hers again despite her protests.

Encouragement. Love. Desire. The desire to help. For Liara to be selfish, to take her own pleasure. A jumble of touches and scents and sounds and memories.

Liara swallowed, working moisture into her dry mouth. Her body felt like a livewire, tingling with the knowledge that she was completely exposed to Shepard's gaze. It had been too long...

'It's okay...' Shepard thought as she kissed the asari's shoulder, still intently focused on the hand moving beneath hers. She could feel Liara's knuckles shifting against her palm and her wrist flexing. 'Just do what feels good to you.'

It was difficult to remember what 'you' meant. She and Shepard were so tightly bound that parts of them were melting in to each other, indistinguishable, unable to be separated. Liara knew that Shepard was feeling everything she felt, experiencing it almost as intensely as a real, physical touch.

Shepard gasped as she felt Liara enter herself – enter them – with two fingers, giving in to her own desires and just hoping that her lover was along for the ride.

Despite the new touch, Shepard forced herself not to abandon the physical world and get lost in the meld. That happened sometimes – their hearts bled together until their physical senses were useless, simply too much for their already overworked nervous systems to handle. Often, they returned to themselves to find their bodies in a position they couldn't remember using, or in a different part of the room altogether. Fortunately, they never wandered more than a few yards... that would have made their time on the Normandy embarrassing, to say the least.

Shepard didn't want that to happen this time. She needed to see the enraptured expression on Liara's face, to hear the soft, low sounds she made when she found a spot she liked. She wanted to absorb all of it, the physical part, and know that it was for her.

Even though she knew she wasn't supposed to be "helping", Shepard couldn't resist sliding her fingers through Liara's heat, gathering some of the wetness she found there and using her slick fingertips to circle the hard, curved ridge just above her entrance. It was similar to a human clitoris, and even looked fairly like one, with a protective hood and sensitive tip, although the shape was slightly different.

That got Liara's full attention, but she couldn't bring herself to protest this time. She had expected to be more in control, to simply use her body as a vehicle to give Shepard the physical experience she had been longing for without causing her lover further injury. But the union didn't work like that. She should have known better.

Her mind reached out to Shepard's, clutching it for comfort and reassurance like a warm hand. Safe. Holding Shepard and being held by her always made her feel safe.

Liara let out a choked sob, wanting to push deeper, to complete the meld. But part of her still felt guilty. The last time she had reached deep enough to draw from Shepard's genetic material – and deep enough for both of them to release – she had mapped Shepard's DNA without asking. Guilt made her pull back.

'Do it. For me. I trust you. Besides, it's not like you can get even more pregnant...'

The asari almost laughed, but the laugh turned into a squeak as Shepard's thumb glided over her again, teasing her for just a moment. Her own fingers curled inside herself, causing the human's hips to shift behind her.

'Are you sure?'

'Yes. I'm sure.'

And then there was no I anymore. Only we and us mattered. 'Shepard' and 'Liara' were meaningless distinctions. There was only one being between them, one heartbeat, one breath, one soul.

In the physical world, both bodies shuddered and crested, clinging tight and moving frantically against each other. If Liara had been aware of what was going on, she would have protested, worried that Shepard might make her injuries worse, but she was too consumed by pleasure to know or care.

They held each other, physically and mentally and spiritually, until the pleasure bordered on pain and they were forced to back away. "Wow," Shepard panted breathlessly when her words returned. Her fingers weren't the ones embedded within Liara, but she could feel the asari's slick inner walls shuddering with aftershocks anyway. Her own pulsed in response. "God, I can still feel you twitching..."

Liara couldn't talk. Her thighs were closed tightly around both of their hands, afraid that if she moved even an inch, she would be overcome by pleasure, pain, or both. She took in large gulps of air, her torso expanding as her heart threatened to pound out of her chest and her lungs burned.

"That's it, baby. Breathe... I've got you."

The first time Shepard had called her 'baby', Liara responded with confusion. She still didn't completely understand how the human word for infant doubled as a term of endearment for one's lover, but she had grown used to it, and even enjoyed it. Shepard couldn't really explain it, except to say, "it means I love you and want to take care of you." That had been enough. She loved Shepard and wanted to take care of her, too.

"Hon, can I have my hand back?" Shepard asked, gently tugging at her trapped fingers.

It took Liara a moment to collect her fuzzy thoughts, but then she opened her thighs and released both of their hands. "Oh! Of course, I'm sorry..."

Shepard began pressing open-mouthed, wet kisses to the tendrils at the back of her neck, and used her now free hand to caress Liara's lower abdomen. "We're gonna have to train our kid to knock as soon as she starts walking," the human teased. "Wouldn't want her to accidentally catch us embracing eternity."

Liara wasn't as concerned. "For a species that engages in sex so frequently and enthusiastically, humans certainly have a lot of hang-ups about discussing it. For asari, the joining is something beautiful, not a source of shame. It would be embarrassing if she caught us, but not the end of the world."

"You can give the sex talk, then, because I don't want to. If she asks me, I'm telling her about the stork."

"The – what? Oh..." Liara decided that Shepard's kisses were a lot more interesting than finding out what a 'stork' was, or what it had to do with reproduction. She filed the question away for later, and then moaned as two wet fingers tweaked the tip of her right breast.