Disclaimer: All characters belong to Bioware except for Erica. I do not own or have any rights to representation of Bioware, EA Games and any other mass media trademarks within this fiction.
Notes: Some things were changed for purposes of artistic freedom amongst other things. Shepard's background is Earthborn and she was a sole survivor. She is a biotic and in a relationship with Liara. (SPOILERS) Based on the Destroy option but without the loss of EDI or the mass relays. Using the Indoctrination theory, but with a twist. Any and all feedback is appreciated.
"So, where are we off to this time, Commander?" Joker asked, turning around halfway in his seat to look up at the woman who had inches on him even when he was standing as straight as he could.
Shepard glanced down at her helmsman of three years. A light smile graced her features before she glanced out of the forward viewport.
"You know what? Why don't you surprise me, Joker? Somewhere we don't have to worry about fighting for our lives every five seconds would be preferable, though," Shepard answered.
"Aye aye," Joker said, Shepard's grin causing him to smile as well before returning to his console to plan the trip. Shepard said nothing more as she turned then headed out of the cockpit.
"Am I to assume we're not going back to Earth, Jeff?" Shepard heard EDI say before the Commander walked out of earshot of the two. Shepard didn't want to go back to Earth after recuperating at the Mars facility they had cleared out so many weeks ago. Not yet, anyways. Earth would just be stressful for the entire crew.
Sighing softly the Commander made her way over to the lift. She pressed the button for the floor below the CIC so that she could get to the crew quarters.
Moments later she found herself standing in front of Liara's quarters. Shepard remembered when the quarters had belonged to Miranda while Liara had been doing information broker things and Shepard was off killing Collectors. Before she could think of a good opening greeting the door hissed open. Her hazel eyes lit up at the sight of the asari pacing restlessly in front of the two dozen or so monitors that had been set up thanks to Liara's job as the Shadow Broker.
"No, I don't care if you lost half your crew to pirates. Nor am I increasing your pay. You will get what was promised so long as I get the information I requested," Liara said, her back to Shepard as she spoke to one of her agents. Shepard shook her head a little bit, biting back a soft chuckle at the asari's antics. As silently as the metal floor of the ship allowed she stepped towards the other female.
Before she could attempt to so much as lay a finger on the asari, Shepard found herself staring at the muzzle of the Shadow Broker's pistol, an M-6 model that Shepard had requisitioned herself for the asari's use. She wasn't staring at the muzzle for long once it registered in Liara's mind who had been sneaking up on her. She fixed the Spectre with a glare then rolled her eyes before she even started to lower the weapon. Shepard's muscles loosened up slightly once she wasn't being held at gunpoint.
"This discussion is over," Liara said. While still as soft-spoken as ever, her voice held a sharpness to it as well. Shepard didn't know how the asari did it. She assumed it came from Liara's mother. A smile formed on Shepard's face as she watched the other end her call.
"Having problems?" Shepard asked mildly. She grunted as Liara's small fist hit her squarely in the stomach. It was a playful hit but it still had a bit of oomph behind it. "Ow, what was that for?"
"For acting like a prepubescent," Liara replied simply before turning away from the Commander.
"I wasn't- well, okay... maybe I was. But still. Ow. And you didn't answer my question," Shepard said, following the asari.
"I don't have a problem. I had an issue and I fixed it. I am capable of fixing things without your help, Shepard," Liara said without turning around. A frown found its way onto the human's face.
"You're mad at me," Shepard prompted.
"No, Shepard. I'm not mad at you. Not anymore, at any rate," Liara said, shaking her head. She folded her arms across her chest then let out a breath she didn't know she had been holding.
"I thought we put all of this behind us," Shepard said. She reached out for the other's shoulder. She hesitated a second but when Liara didn't make a move to defend against it in any way the Commander dropped her palm onto the asari's shoulder. She then gently pulled on it to turn the older female around so they could look at each other face-to-face.
Shepard was slightly startled to see Liara's eyes shimmering with unshed tears.
"I almost lost you a second time, Shepard. And you act like all you did was finish a board game," Liara said softly, staring up at the human.
"You know that isn't true, Liara. You're there when I have my nightmares," Shepard argued.
"That's at night, Shep. During the day you act like... like... I don't have a proper metaphor for how you act that I haven't already used," Liara said, shaking her head. A single tear gently trailed down her cheek. Shepard brought a hand up then gently wiped the tear away with her thumb.
"How do you want me to act, Liara? Like I cheated death for a second time? Like I know I'm on borrowed time now and for all I know I'll die tomorrow for real this time?" Shepard asked.
"I want you to act like a mortal who understands the implications of all of this," Liara answered.
"So says the Shadow Broker who was bitching at one of her contacts just a few minutes ago," Shepard countered, narrowing her eyes at the asari.
"I also wasn't dead for two years then ended up erasing the Reaper threat and nearly dying again. You said it yourself. I'm the Shadow Broker. It has to be business as usual to keep my identity up," Liara said, somewhat avoiding the issue.
"Mostly dead," Shepard corrected. "And you helped me with the fully coming back to life thing and the erasing the Reaper threat thing. Don't sell yourself short, Liara. You're as guilty as I am when it comes to acting like nothing big just happened to us."
Gently, the Spectre put her arms around the asari's waist then pulled her close. Liara wiggled a little bit in her superior's grip but gave up quickly. She sighed before returning the gesture and resting her head on Shepard's chest.
"I hate you," Liara muttered.
"Sure you do, T'Soni," Shepard said, smiling lightly as she leaned her head down to gently kiss the asari's head.
"What happens to us now that there's no war to fight?" Liara asked, almost sounding hesitant to ask the question out loud.
"And here is where the 'great' Commander Shepard doesn't have an answer," the woman replied, chuckling softly. She grunted as Liara lightly thumped the Commander's chest with her hand.
"Stop hitting me. I'm serious. I don't have an answer. I've been fighting since I was old enough to know what a gun is and how to use it," Shepard said, closing her eyes as she rested up against the bulkhead behind her with Liara still in her arms.
"I've been fighting, really fighting, since I met you, Shepard. I don't really remember what it's like to not be fighting or preparing to fight," Liara admitted softly.
"You're over a hundred years old. Very little of your life has been about fighting. I'm sure you'll do just fine acclimating to just being the biggest information broker in the galaxy," Shepard said.
"I'm glad you finally remembered how old I am," Liara said, smiling up at the taller female.
"It had nothing to do with my memory, thanks. It had to do with the idea that asari live longer than humans," Shepard said defensively.
"And... that I am many decades older than the 'great' Commander Shepard," Liara added, the smile still on her face. Her fingers trailed softly along the bandages that still were stuck to the woman's neck. She knew that Shepard was able to ignore a good amount of pain, which is why she didn't mind playfully 'hitting' the woman.
It had taken her, Garrus, Ashley, and James a while to dig the Commander out of the rubble that had been made by the exploding Citadel. It was a miracle the woman had survived at all. But that was her Shepard, surviving against all odds. Coming back from the dead for a second time... and the reason she was mad at how blasé the woman was acting over it.
The Citadel was in pieces but there were mumblings of putting it all back together again. She knew Shepard wasn't in the mood to deal with any of it. She hoped Joker would do the right thing and fly them somewhere far away from the Sol System.
Shepard grimaced a little bit at the light pressure to her neck. It still stung like a bitch but she was hardly going to complain about it, especially not to the asari. Her grimace was easily picked up by the other however. Liara frowned, dropping her hand from the Commander's neck.
"I'm sorry," she said, as soft as ever.
"Don't worry about it. A little pain just means I'm still breathin'," Shepard said, brushing off the concern. Her words merely caused a deeper look of concern to appear on the asari's face.
Liara could still remember sitting at Shepard's bedside. The Commander had been unconscious for most of her time spent on Mars after the Reapers had been taken care of. She remembered how vulnerable Shepard was, how close to dying she had been. But thanks to Liara once again, Shepard was alive.
"Liara..." said Shepard to gently coax the asari out of her thoughts.
"Hm?" Liara murmured softly, glancing up at the human.
"You're drifting into Liara world again," Shepard explained.
"Just thinking about... well, you."
"What about me?"
"How you seem incapable of staying dead despite our enemies' best efforts."
"It's your fault, Dr. T'soni."
"W-what? My fault? How?"
"You're the one who helped bring me back both times. If you want me to stay dead, stop helping with the whole bringing me back thing."
"That isn't what I meant, Shepard. At all."
"I know. I just like seeing you get flustered. Ouch!" Shepard yelped as the asari pinched her forearm.
"You're incorrigible. Absolutely and completely," Liara said before pulling away from the Marine. Shepard watched as the blue skinned alien practically glided to the bed nestled in the back of the room.
"You make me this way. You're just way too fun to tease," Shepard said as she followed almost directly in the other's footsteps. She slowly dropped down onto the bed. She turned her head to glance over at the asari. Liara had taken position against the headboard. Blue eyes met hazel and kept the connection for a few seconds. Liara broke the eye contact to turn her attention to a data pad that, according to Shepard, had appeared entirely out of thin air.
"As I said, you act like a prepubescent. You find something that bugs someone and you keep doing it," Liara said, her eyes not moving from the data pad.
"Oh don't get all high and mighty on me, Liara," Shepard said.
"I beg your pardon?" Liara asked, a phrase Shepard wasn't even sure she'd heard Liara say before. Shepard wondered where she had picked it up. This time Liara's eyes had moved from the data pad and over to the younger female.
"You're doing the whole 'oh you young immature human' thing again. Like a lot of asari do because human lifespans aren't even a quarter of what asari lifespans are," Shepard explained, not bothering to ask where Liara had picked up her earlier phrase.
"I assure you that isn't what I was trying to do," Liara insisted.
"Maybe you weren't trying to but it did come out that way," Shepard said.
"My apologies then," Liara said. To the Commander's great annoyance, the asari's attention went right back to the pad.
With something akin to a growl, a blue field appeared around the Commander. A second field covered the data pad. Before Liara could react the data pad had been yanked out of her hand by the Commander's biotics and thrown into the opposite corner. The action startled Liara and she looked at Shepard with wide eyes. Before the asari could say anything the Marine had clambered on top of her to pin her down.
"Sh-Shepard? What are you doing?" Liara asked. She hated the stammer she acquired when fear or uncertainty was starting to creep into her mind.
"I think I'm way more important than some fucking data pad, Liara," Shepard said. Liara caught a slight predatory gleam in the Commander's eyes.
"Of course you are, Shepard. But..." Liara began.
"But nothing. We finally have some real downtime and you're too fucking wrapped up in your research," Shepard said derisively.
"You may have saved the galaxy but that doesn't mean it has suddenly stopped moving," Liara argued, trying very hard to make her voice steady and strong. She had to resist Shepard. She wasn't going to give in that easily or she'd never hear the end of it. She knew how Shepard worked, knew what the officer expected from 'her crew'.
She almost gave a squeak when she felt the Commander's knee brush against her crotch when the human shifted herself to get into a better position above the asari. Blue eyes connected with hazel again. The same look of predatory fierceness could be glimpsed in the Commander's eyes.
"You've done this shit to me way too many times, Liara. You completely brushed me off back when I helped you with the yahg Shadow Broker. I'm getting quite sick of it," Shepard said.
"Not all of us solve our problems by bashing heads in or shooting people," Liara said.
"Yes and you're going to turn me into a problem if you keep this shit up. I love you, Liara, but you piss me off in too many ways to enumerate. I get that you love your job. I do. But dammit I need you to throw me a bone once in a while," Shepard said. The Marine's words caused a look of confusion to cross the Asari's face.
"Why would I throw a bone at you?" Liara asked in that truly innocent and curious way of hers.
"It's a figure of speech. It means to give me a reason to do something. To give a reward for hard work. Give me a clue as to what you're thinking. Keep me informed about your feelings about me," Shepard answered.
Liara squirmed under the human slightly but Shepard wasn't willing to move just yet.
"Shepard... I didn't realize..." Liara began.
"Yeah, I wonder why. You're a good information broker, Liara. But... when it comes to your personal life you're crap at keeping track of information about me, about us," Shepard said.
"I really am sorry, Shepard. I don't mean to give you the cold shoulder. I just... I had to do a lot of growing up and adapting when you... hmf... died," Liara said, unsure exactly how to describe the two year absence of the Spectre.
"No kidding. But Liara, I haven't changed. I'm still me. I'm still Shepard. The same Shepard that rescued you all those years ago on Therum. And you know damn well how I like to be kept in the loop about things. Especially when it comes to personal interactions."
"I know. I'm sor-" Liara began to say but she was cut off.
"You're sorry. I know. You told me. I wasn't done. I love you. More than I've loved anyone. You asked me a few months ago if we were still together. I told you I wanted us to be. But then it was right back to the cold shoulder again. The night we spent together before storming Cerberus' headquarters was more than I could have hoped for. Hell, it renewed my hope that we were going to win the fucking war and earn a well-deserved retirement... together. When we melded before the final assault on Earth, it made me fight twice as hard as before. For us. For the little blue children I promised you. Yet here you are... giving me the cold shoulder once again. I want some God damn answers as to why you keep doing this to me. To us. To our relationship," Shepard said, glaring at the asari with a very large overtone of anger. But behind the anger was hurt and fear. Hurt that the archaeologist turned Shadow Broker was keeping her at arm's length and fear that there was a bad reason for it.
"You have been the only person I've melded with before, Shepard. I love you very much even if I don't show it properly. But I'm also frightened. I'm scared this is all a dream that turned into a nightmare then back into a dream. I'm also scared that I'm just a temporary distraction for you if the dream theory is wrong. Humans don't stay with their asari lovers long once it has sunk in that the age difference is great and that the human will die long before the asari," Liara said, finally giving Shepard what she was asking for: information and a peek into the asari's thought processes.
"There are plenty of available humans around even after the war took so many. I saw how you looked at Ash when she got knocked around by Dr. Core. I saw the pain when you held each other at gun point when she was protecting the Council, supposedly from you. You two would make a good couple. You'd fit better, too, since you're both human. No need to worry about a massive age gap or anything like that."
"Liara!" Shepard scolded, shaking her head. "I don't want Williams. I want you. I thought that was dreadfully clear by now. What else do I have to do to make you see you're the only being in the galaxy I want?"
"You can't tell me the thoughts haven't crossed your mind. You can't tell me you've never thought about the age gap or the fact we're two different species or anything else like that. You can't tell me you've never thought how much easier it would be if I wasn't an asari," Liara said.
She watched as Shepard's eyes hollowed with the pain of the words entering her ears. A guilty shimmer could also be seen there. In Shepard's defense, such thoughts had only come up in the beginning of the relationship when they were both trying to find their bearings when it came to the other.
Wounded, the Marine climbed off of the asari. She'd been quite literally shot before. Hell, one bullet had actually sliced through one of her ventricles (she had only survived thanks to quick administration of medi-gel and Doctor Chakwas' expertise). But this shot hurt so much worse than any other.
Liara's eyes searched the heartbroken soldier's face for any sign of the trademark Shepard Determination. She didn't see a single trace of it. Her own heart ached when she realized that Shepard had finally been broken. Many had tried to break the soldier's will but none had succeeded. It had taken someone who had chipped through the shell in order to cause the woman to finally break.
"Kate," Liara intoned, finally using the human's first name rather than her surname. She had hoped that would snap the woman out of it. It did... in a way. Shepard's eyes caught Liara's and when they did the asari took a sharp breath in. The look of pure, unadulterated rage in the usually caring hazel eyes caught the archaeologist by surprise. She swallowed thickly as fear crept into her. The only times she had really seen such looks was when Shepard had been betrayed, or seemingly betrayed. Or, of course, when Shepard had seen some sort of injustice. The last time she had seen that look was when the Illusive Man had seemingly destroyed their chances at defeating the Reapers.
She flinched out of reflex when she saw Shepard's right hand rise. The hero of the Reaper War had never struck her before out of anger but she was scared all the same. It seemed that Shepard had been about to break that streak but moments later the hand dropped then clenched into a fist. Without a single word, Shepard moved off of the bed. The look of fury was still very much present in her eyes. As Shepard put distance between the two Liara's heart began to ache even more.
"Kate, please. It isn't like that. Don't do this," Liara started to plead. She didn't realize she was speaking until moments after the words left her mouth. This night had spiraled completely out of control. For a split second she hoped for some sort of emergency that would break up the encounter so she could try to regroup herself and try to fix things with the Commander.
Liara watched as Shepard clenched her jaw, the muscle bulging slightly.
"You would honestly accuse me of such things then dare use my first name?" Shepard asked, her voice harder than diamond. It was a tone that Liara had never heard directed at her. Fear took residence in her gut.
"K—Shepard. Please. I promise you it isn't what you think. I'm just worried that-" Liara began. She was cut off when the extremely familiar sight of a mass effect field erupted around Shepard's body as her biotics came into play. Biotic powers were often dictated by the user's emotions. Judging by how intense the field looked, Liara judged rather correctly that the Commander was absolutely furious and in pain.