CHAPTER 10 – Liara & Jack

In the anteroom of the Destiny's Ascension, a lone blue figure shuddered, clad in a white jumpsuit and matching lab coat. She was cradling her body as if from cold, though the ships temperature regulators were still functioning. Liara T'Soni shook her head, laughing darkly at the idiocy of it all. Fate never flowed the way history recorded. The course of the last few years had beggared the experts for words. The sheer scope of what had happened defied believe and explanation. Despite all odds, a single man had stemmed the flow of oblivion. The universe would never be the same again.

But for past three weeks, the rest of the galaxy had started to move on, while the man responsible for their salvation lay motionless, hovering at the precipice of death, once again. The Asari shook her head, how many times had Shepard pulled victory from the jaws of defeat?

She laughed, despite her dismay, "for that matter, this isn't the first time you've died, is it?"

Liara heard the servomechanism of the door cycle open behind her, and she snapped her head around, "Shepard?"

A brunette wearing army fatigues, tank top, and a studded black leather jacket walked in, eyes downcast, "no, sorry. Any word?"

"Jack…."

Liara breathed in heavily, shaking her head as she collapsed into the nearest chair. The Asari leaned forward, propping her elbows on her legs, as she cradled her head in her hands.

The human biotic nodded solemnly, taking her seat across from Liara. She held a large mug of coffee in either hand, proffering one to the Asari.

She grinned in thanks, "any better than last time?"

Jack laughed, "only because I added some J.D."

Liara shrugged, taking a tentative sip, her eyes going wide as the alcohol caught her by surprise. She almost sputtered, clearing her throat before calming down, taking a deeper draught from the cup.

Jack nodded, before taking a swig from her own mug. She glanced thoughtfully at the Asari. Over the course of the last few weeks, she'd been a companion. Initially, they'd grated against each other, for obvious reasons. Liara had been Shepard's woman, back before he'd died the first time. Jack laughed at how foolish it seemed, of what life had thrown at the Spectre.

He'd been blown to hell and back, somehow managing to save her ass along the way. She'd hooked up with him, when the crazy bastard had recruited Jack for the suicide mission on the Collector homeworld.

Seeing his focus, his dedication, Jack had to know what had driven the man. So, she'd asked the only other person who'd known him better, the Shadow Broker herself, Liara T'Soni. What she'd heard had been…troubling.

Life hadn't ever been kind to Jack, not until she'd met Shepard. She'd simply assumed that annoying never-say-die attitude of his had come from a perfect childhood. But Shepard had never coasted through life either. He'd enlisted, fighting his way up the ranks, finally receiving a command that made him famous, only to lose many of his men, despite his best efforts. He was the only survivor to make it out of that hopeless hell, and he barely even showed the scars.

Then Shepard had joined the Spectres, and the trials had only begun. Always, he soldiered on, the Galaxy throwing everything at him, burying him in blood and carnage. Nightmares followed the man, threatening to make Jack's own fears seem meaningless.

Jack looked across the table in front of her, laying down her cup, "so, was it like this the first time he…?"

The Asari breathed in sharply, nodding slightly before taking another mouthful of the burning liquid.

"No, last time was…" she closed her eyes, fighting back the tears, "would you believe if I told you I don't know, even to this day, what it was really like?"

Jack grinned sadly, remembering when she'd lost someone important to Batarian raiders, "sure, I know what you mean. He was dead, which meant you had to move on. It wasn't easy, you wish it'd been you instead…hah, I remember I told Shepard once…fuckin' on/off switch."

Liara blinked a few times, the laughed quietly, "yes, I suppose it would have been."

The Asari looked out into the void outside the bulkheads, taking in the serene beauty of Earth's slightly marred cerulean atmosphere.

"I had to kill myself," she said, "emotionally…I'd shut that part of my life away, sure I'd never get back what I'd lost. Then he came back and changed it all over again."

Jack leaned forward, pursing her lips, "yeah, he has that effect. I remember how the bastard dragged out my fears and hang-ups, kicking and screaming. He wouldn't look away...his way of dealing I guess…"

She shook her head, "do Asari even feel that kind of loss? I mean, don't you often outlive your lovers?"

Liara snapped her head up, eyes misting slightly in regret and anger. She looked at Jack's somber expression, and calmed down. This couldn't have been any easier on the battle-worn woman.

The Asari sighed, "well, as you said, he has that affect on people. Still, to have him ripped away so suddenly…and…seeing his corpse, knowing that it had been taken away to be…defiled…"

Jack's breath caught, remembering how Shepard had come to be in her life in the first place, "Cerberus bastards…then again, they did bring him back…how'd he take it when he found out?"

Liara leaned her arm against the couch, resting her head on her hand, "EDI took us into the Cerberus base, managed to access the data archives. He didn't…say much, but the look in his eyes was enough. Goddess, I wish I'd been there for him…"

Jack looked down, "yeah…"

"So, I never did ask…"

"How'd we hook up?" asked Jack.

Liara nodded.

Jack sighed wistfully, recalling how they'd met, Shepard refusing to take "no" for an answer. Looking back on it, the whole crew had been on the brink of death for the better part of a year…preparing for what was certain doom at the hands of the Collector's. And for what? Nothing more than simple information, which may or may not have ended the colony abductions, may or may not have given them intel on the Reapers…

Thinking on it, Jack was surprised Shepard hadn't simply cracked under the pressure. All those lives, and it had been his job to pull together a group of strangers, getting them ready to save a universe that wouldn't even remember their efforts.

Still, he'd made the time for friends. He'd made time to save her, even if it was for a purpose. And what a purpose…he'd given her meaning, given her a goal to achieve. For the first time in Jack's life, someone had treated her with the respect and honor of an equal.

And she'd thrown it back in his face. She was ashamed, looking back on how she'd treated him, pushed him away. But still, somehow he'd made time yet again, peeling away the layers of her fear, helping her face her past, and finally heal.

Then, despite all the ugliness and hate she'd shown him, Shepard had accepted her into his heart. So many times before, she'd been betrayed, been used. Yet here was a man who had accepted her unconditionally.

She wiped at the corner of her eyes, as if brushing grit, "you know, all my life, I'd never felt worth anything, never given a damn. And along he comes, digs up all these feelings...and rather than tie me down..."

She stopped talking, her lips trembling slightly, eyes blinking rapidly, defiantly refusing the onset of tears.

"He set you free," finished Liara.

The other woman simply nodded.

"So you love him?"

Jack stared evenly at Liara, who nodded, raising her hands in apology.

Jack tipped her head in acknowledgement, sighing deeply, "so, how was it with you? From all the vids, the first Normandy crew didn't have it much easier."

Liara shrugged, "no, but we never realized the scope of it all, not until it we were well in the thick of it…"

Before she'd met Shepard, Liara had been little more than a child, in the eyes of her people, just some innocent little girl studying remote anthills. Little had she known those anthills would hide such nightmares. Before she knew it, Geth and Krogan tank-bred monstrosities had shattered her world, threatening to destroy her with the same cold calculation of the Reapers.

Of course, Shepard had other plans, rushing in like an angel of death, saving Liara as she cowered in fear. But Saren, the Geth, and the Reapers were a remote fear back then. Her mind had been consumed with the betrayal of her mother, the Matriarch Benezia.

By all rights, Shepard should have thrown Liara in the brig, but he'd accepted her as one of the crew. And when the time finally came to face Benezia…at least her mother had died on her own terms, coming to her senses before the end. Even now, Liara could still feel her mother's caress on her cheek.

However, the weight of the universe was riding on Shepard's shoulders. It was his failure or success that would determine the rise and fall of the galaxy. Like fools, the Council had stripped him of status, trying to deny him his honor. But Shepard, as always, pressed on, despite grief and heartache…despite loss of friends and comrades…refusing to be stopped.

At the edge of eternity, before the final plunge into the void, she'd come to him, unsure and afraid. Together, they'd shared a passion that burned away the fears and uncertainty, leaving both breathless. Together, they'd stormed the tides of oblivion, and come out the other side…

But Fate moved in strange and callous ways, tearing Shepard from her side not once, nor twice, but intolerably, a third time as well. It seemed a cruel impropriety. Once more, Shepard's husk, nearly devoid of life, rested before her, beyond her ability to help or heal. She, who was feared and revered across the galaxy as the infamous Shadow Broker, was helpless as a babe before this daunting task.

Liara blinked back tears, "I couldn't follow him until the end…moving too fast for my…little wings."

Jack couldn't help but feel she was missing something, "don't worry, he's through the worst of it…Shepard will pull through, he always has."

Liara looked up at her.

"We're here aren't we?" continued the biotic soldier, "Shepard's too much of a hard-ass, we'll see him again."

"So…where does that leave us?"

"Fuck if I know," Jack shrugged, "figure it's up to us, don't you?"

"But Shepard-"

"You know him as well as I do Liara, the man's all about choices and consequences. As soon as he sees us, he'll probably take his time THINKING about it, and TALKING about it, and trying to UNDERSTAND what we want…pisses me off."

Liara couldn't help but laugh, "you're incorrigible."

"It's true," Jack shrugged, "Alliance had him holed up like a rat for months because of that damn HONOR of his. The man should unwind and just do whatever the hell he feels once in a while."

"I rather think that's the cause of our current concern," reasoned Liara.

"Oh THIS?" demanded Jack, "hell, if Shepard was REALLY fucking around, I could let it go. I've been in enough shit relationships to know when it's broken, to know when I'm being used."

The Asari frowned, "and your point is…?"

"Oh come on girl," groaned Jack, "I didn't think Asari were prisses."

"We aren't," countered Liara, "many are polyamorous, considering our life-spans. But neither am I a testament to promiscuity."

"I'm not whoring around either…"

"I love Shepard."

"But you won't take my seconds, is that it?"

"That's not it!" argued Liara, "I can't imagine giving him up, but I refuse to be a third wheel!"

Jack blinked, and started shuddering.

"Jack?"

The other woman started laughing, "oh man, you two deserve each other…"

Liara cocked her head to the side, "uhm…am I missing something? Human behavior still manages to confuse me at times…"

Jack wiped a tear of amusement from her eye, finally calming down, "near as I can tell, he actually cares about both of us, in his own way. So of course, he'll likely leave us both, first chance he gets…"

"I thought in the course of normal human courtship-"

Jack looked soberly at the Asari, "Liara, what about this relationship seems "normal" to you? I'm fucked up, and have been since I was a kid, and you're not a human."

"I know that," said Liara, "but I know that multiple partners among humans traditionally means an unwillingness to commit-"

Jack continued, "and Shepard has died, nearly twice now. You know that's fucked him up, whether he admits it or not. I don't blame him, he's kept it together pretty good actually."

"And that makes you think that he'll just leave us?"

"No, just that all your stupid FEELINGS are gonna get in the way of the answer to our problem."

"Which is?"

Jack gestured to herself, "I won't give him up."

Then she gestured to Liara, "and neither will you."

The Asari was at a loss for words.

"Listen, do you trust me? Can you at least deal with me on friendly terms?"

Liara thought about it, realizing that she had indeed formed a bond with the firebrand of a woman, over the past few weeks of unbearable grief.

Liara nodded slowly.

"Well then," reasoned Jack, "I know you can be a tough bitch, but at least you won't stab me in the back. And Shepard doesn't have it in him to try."

The Asari cocked her head, "the concept is not alien to me, but what makes you think that he'd-"

"Because he's a man," said Jack.

"And that makes you think he'd act mindlessly and with his genitals?"

Jack arched an eyebrow, "no, because most human men find it hard to argue with a woman, much less two of us."

"I'm not a human woman…"

"I won't hold that against you…"

Liara started laughing, shaking her head, "fine, we'll do it…your…"

Jack smiled, but stopped short as she caught the look in Liara's face. All the color seemed to drain from the Asari, her lips moved soundlessly. She was like a puppet with her strings cut. Jack leaned forward, concerned for a moment before she registered the sound of the doors cycling shut behind her field of vision…

She didn't dare form the thought, refusing to allow her hope to be shattered. Still, Jack turned; and, after what seemed an eternity, she turned to face the man she'd fought through hell itself to see.

Shepard was breathing heavily, body shaking slightly as he braced himself against the wall. Beyond all hope or reason, he was here, standing in front of them again…

'Them?' he thought, not sure what to make of the two women before him.

He felt as though he'd run a marathon lasting several years. All his choices, all he had fought through, Shepard had never expected to make it out alive. Along the way, he'd forged precious bonds, granting him a peace and solace he'd never expected to find.

He'd been blessed not once, but twice. Liara had helped him recover from death itself; and Jack had protected him, despite having little reason to trust him. Shepard shook his head.

"I don't deserve this," he whispered, ashamed of what his actions had led to, "I'm sorry…"

Liara's mind went blank, and she rushed forward, forgetting all the rhetoric and doubts. She rushed into his arms, wrapping herself in his warmth. Her lips found his, and Liara greedily pulled him into her, feeling like she'd come home, finally.

Shepard could feel nothing, mind going numb, drowning in Liara's undeniable need and desire. All that he had thought to say, and none of it mattered, lost in the simple truth of her, here, wrapped up in his arms. Shepard ran his arms down Liara's sides, resting his hands against the small of her back.

He frowned as he caught sight of Jack, softly disengaging from Liara. The Asari sighed wistfully as he broke off the contact, and fell silent as she followed his gaze to Jack. Liara gripped his arm tightly, refusing to let go.

Slowly, the other woman sauntered up to Shepard, lower lip jutting out, hands on her hips.

She arched an eyebrow, silently demanding an explanation. Liara nervously bit her lower lip as she looked on.

Shepard's eyes softened, as he gently unlaced his arm from Liara, clearly at a loss.

"It wasn't a lie Jack," he whispered shakily, "I can't pretend otherwise…but I don't know how-"

"Just shut the hell up," she breathed, "shut up and kiss me…"

"What-?"

She searched desperately for Shepard's mouth, her tongue lashing out against his, refusing to be denied. She finally allowed herself to let go, a tear slowly trickling down her cheek.

An explosion of passion assaulted Shepard's mind, a torrent driving all coherent thought from him. His body conformed to the contours of her heaving breasts, her body gyrating with reckless abandon, leaving him entranced.

It seemed he had been fighting for ages, what seemed an eternity, simply to be here, at this moment. Nothing else seemed to matter. Shepard caressed her, silently calming her, assuring her.

"Shepard, you bastard" she whispered, bringing her hands to his face, "you had me scared…"

Shepard wiped away her tears, shook his head, and glanced back to Liara.

"I thought for sure I was in for it," he said," I never expected to survive…I'm…sorry…"

"So," quipped Liara, "that just meant you could leave us to sort it out ourselves, did we mean so little to you?"

Shepard opened his mouth, turning to her, then closed it, stepping back from both of them, "you know that's not true…but I haven't been fair to either of you. What I've done…"

"Was necessary," continued Liara, "you saved us Shepard, you saved yourself."

"We know it wasn't easy, it's never been easy," reasoned Jack, "you died, then went off to save the galaxy by yourself…"

"Again," added Liara.

Jack grinned, "but we can be forgiving…"

Shepard nodded, bringing his unwrapped arm to his face. He was about to speak, but the rush of blood to his head left him feeling dizzy, and he lost his footing. Both women drew up to him, supporting either arm.

Shepard grunted, the wounds along his sides flaring up, as the bandages on his left arm shifted slightly. Liara and Jack eased him into a couch.

"Take it easy," said the Asari, "you've been through enough, and we'll not lose you again."

They drew up beside him, either woman sidling up to him on the couch. Liara took his bandaged arm in hers, running her hands lovingly up his sides, easing the tension in his aching muscles.

"Are you sure you're okay with this?" he asked, unsure what to believe, "we've still got a lot ahead of us…it won't be easy…"

Jack simply shook her head, taking his good arm, wrapping it around her, to rest against her side. She eased her head against his shoulder, "we'll figure it out…nothing else really matters…does it?"

Shepard looked at either woman, grinning despite himself at this turn of events. He drew them closer with his arms, allowing his gaze to wander out to the bulkheads, to the sunlight shimmering off the sea of ships outside. Transports issued from the fleet, moving up and down the Earth's surface…slowly but surely…the galaxy was rebuilding.

Shepard laughed, answering, "no…I suppose it doesn't…"

History was now an empty slate. Important choices still lay ahead. Shepard would face them, with friends and allies, but most importantly, with the women at his side…

Author's Note: Why two chicks? Why the heck not?! It's Shepard, aka Bond in Space! Besides, Bioware set up this sort of thing before, in Jade Empire. We all know Jack is down for it (as she's done this stuff before); and Liara said she was down back in ME1.

For doing it with Femshep, other than Thane, who'd be the unlucky 3rd in THAT one?! Garrus is the only one I'd consider badass enough, and it doesn't seem like he'd share!

At any rate, the main reason I've done this is to set up my ME4 fic, and I was too lazy to pick one. Also, I figure by now, Shep is past caring for love triangles. Anyway, thank you, your welcome, and I hope you've enjoyed the ride as much as me!