A/N: Liara and Traynor! For the whopping three Liara and Traynor fans there are! Ah, I love accidentally stumbling into ridiculous ships I will then ship for life. The premise for this is basically "What would happen to that awkward Liara T'Soni if Shepard never romanced her and she then went on to become the Shadow Broker?" Thus this was born. Next chapter more Aethyta and Javik!
Liara clears her throat.
Communications Specialist Samantha Traynor turns around, datapad in hand. She bears an unapologetic but friendly smile. Liara has taken Miranda Lawson's former office and room for herself. Liara mourns being unable to salvage all the equipment from the Shadow Broker Base but she did save what matters. The equipment hasn't all been moved in and already there's someone poking around, uninvited. Maintaining secrecy aboard the Normandy will be a difficult task.
"This isn't Alliance issue…" Traynor tells her thoughtfully. Of course it isn't Alliance issue. Why say that? "But I suppose I'm being very rude right now. I'm Communications Specialist Traynor. Er—Samantha, for those not in the Alliance." Liara already knows. She considers pointing out that a lack of introductions isn't what 's rude. She knows every member of the crew and their rank and title. It would take longer to explain and she'd rather not. She lets her go on. "I work for R&D—. Or, I did, prior to the Reaper attack." She takes a breath, finally and this time her smile is embarrassed. "Welcome to the Normandy."
"Thank you," Liara moves into the room, giving Traynor a quick and somewhat dismissive glance before moving on, "but I've been here before. This wasn't my room," she says as an aside. She picks up a data pad and begins to read through the inventory. Not everything is here yet. She stifles her irritation.
"Oh. I didn't know that."
Which part didn't she know? That this wasn't her room? That she'd previously been aboard the vessel? Irrelevant. Liara wonders why Specialist Samantha Traynor is still in her room. She looks Traynor over. She doesn't seem particularly exemplary. She's attractive but for all Liara knows she's another Kelly Chambers. "Most people know that." Liara flicks through the datapad, sighing softly. "Was there anything more? I have quite a few things to get into order." And she's unused to engaging with others.
It's been a long time since she's had regular contact with anyone. All her life she's been alone. Benezia led her to many dull and intimidating functions. How she'd dreaded them. University life was an escape. After that, her escape became her work on Prothean dig sites. The silence of the dig sites was a blessing. They were an opportunity to focus on research and a culture long gone. It was meditative.
It wasn't always good. There was the embarrassment in Therum (how young she was!) before she spent a fragment of her life aboard the Normandy. That became her greatest exposure to humans (whom she still finds somewhat strange and reckless). It marked her first experience being part of a team and something greater. It was an uncomfortable time in which she practiced humility and tripped over words.
The brief stint on the Normandy was followed by another shard of interpersonal communication with the parties involved in the recovery of Shepard's body after his death.
Always small pockets of time framed by isolation. The last piece of time with others was Nyxeris on Illium. Nyxeris' duplicitous nature was almost to be admired. Liara resolved the situation. She found the Shadow Broker, killed the Shadow Broker.
She lost nothing but hired men and Feron. Feron would have stabbed her in the back eventually. He had, more times than she could count. But she owed him his life and her own. A debt she failed to repay. Pity. She liked him.
The past two and a half years have stripped her of any naivety in maneuvering the complexities of people, the lies and excuses they'll invent. Some play innocent with mastery but Liara has learned to see past it. Every trace of a person's existence at her fingertips provides the data to separate emotion and sentimentality into fact. Some call her ruthless. Let them. It umeans she's won or is about to. The Shadow Broker can't afford niceties. She's made difficult and brutal decisions since taking over but they have been her decisions.
And now the world is ending again. She had not anticipated returning to the Normandy, fleeing from Cerberus, joining this madness and Shepard, others again.
She does better brokering information than following social cues.
She and Shepard have never been close, despite her respect for him, he having a particular weakness for Chief, no, Lieutenant-Commander Ashley Williams and Liara…not. Liara absently wonders when she'll be out of the hospital. They may not get along but a good soldier is always welcome, especially for the war.
The Communications Specialist is still in the room, looking around, memorizing, making mental notes. Making actual notes in her datapad. Liara doesn't like it. "Was there anything else?" Liara asks again.
"Nothing more. Commander Shepard suggested I meet the crew." Traynor shifts her weight from one foot to the other. Liara finally looks up at her, waiting. "So… I'll just be going. It was…a pleasure," she says stiltedly. Liara doubts it. "If you have any questions, not that I think you will," she mutters under her breath, "you can find me in CIC or the crew's quarters."
"Thank you but I'll manage on my own."
Liara has already looked away, resuming her inventory work by the time Traynor exits.
It's late night but Traynor is in CIC going over the Normandy systems. She knows EDI has a handle on things but wishes to expand her own working knowledge on the ship she's been stationed (trapped) on. Retrofitting it and redesigning for months hasn't been enough to provide her with all the answers.
Liara's room draws inordinate amounts of power. Traynor wonders how much of it has to do with her (clearly not Alliance) equipment. Typically she would ask but Liara T'Soni is difficult, to say the least.
Are all asari so aloof? It's a shame. Traynor would have liked to make a friend aboard the Normandy. Traynor has done some light research on Liara. A Prothean expert (can there be such a thing? Aren't they extinct?), daughter of Matriarch Benezia (!) who helped Shepard stop Sovereign and Saren.
After that, there's little trace of her. It appears she's returned to academia. And to the Normandy to snipe at her for not knowing she'd once been a member of the crew. Is that something she should have known? The galaxy hardly knew about what Shepard did. She's only a specialist, hardly the type with the necessary access to personnel files.
Nor had she known that Liara T'Soni would be joining them after their trip to Mars. Traynor sighs inwardly and rubs her eyes. She takes the elevator down to the third deck and yawns sleepily. It is only chance that she faces Liara's office when she steps off the elevator. Light flares and spikes beneath the razor thin space beneath the door. Traynor walks towards it, in a daze. The door slides open.
The room is dark. The light she saw is only the bleeding of the monitors arrayed across the wall like mosaic. Traynor walks deeper into the room, tripping over a thick cord, the size of her fist, in the process. She stumbles, grabbing blindly and finding the edge of a terminal to balance herself. The computer equipment available is antiquated, current, some of it technologically superior than anything she has ever seen.
"Can I help you?"
Liara is at the door. Oh, bloody hell. This is the second time she's been caught in her room and she can't pretend to have a good excuse this time. It's the middle of the night. "It's…rather dark in here. Have high power levels caused your lights to malfunction?"
Liara scoffs. "Very funny." She moves into the room, wearing her jacket. It looks like a lab coat. She wears what looks like a white tanktop beneath and black slacks. She's barefoot. "I'm used to human males having a fascination with my kind. But why are you here? This is the second time you've intruded."
"Sorry. I didn't mean to." How has Liara managed to make her feel like a pervert? "I saw the lights…" she explains, "and found myself here before I knew it." Liara is looking at all the monitors, ingesting the endless feeds that zip by. "Just…what is it that you do here?"
"That isn't your concern."
"I can't say that I agree," Traynor says. "You are onboard the Normandy and it is both my job and EDI's to monitor core functions of the ship. Energy usage levels have spiked since you've joined Commander Shepard on his mission. Power flow has to constantly be monitored and redirected so that systems run to full capability. As is, we'll have to requisition several pieces just to make up for your…work."
"The Normandy is only one ship," she says thoughtfully. "I'll make the necessary adjustments. Requisitions won't be necessary."
"A systems analysis will be the judge of that. If I may ask… what does a Prothean expert do on a mission like this? The Protheans are long gone. I'm not even sure what they have to do with the Reapers."
"Shepard initially had contact with a Prothean beacon on Eden Prime. That was years ago. My…expertise was 'requested' for him to make sense of the images both there and with the Cipher. If not for that we wouldn't know the Reapers extinguished the Protheans almost 50,000 years ago. And now they're back to finish us."
It's strange how the cold grasp of terror will cinch tightly around her. She does well enough when she keeps busy. She does well when she doesn't think of her family or when she can pretend that she's merely onboard the Normandy to finish retrofitting. Things were easier in the lab.
"Are you afraid?" Liara asks when Traynor says nothing.
"If I say yes?"
"Then you're not crazy," she says with the faintest of smiles. It transforms her face wholly from icy and detached to warm and approachable.
Traynor's heart skips a beat. She wonders how weeks passed without realizing that the woman before her is beautiful. "I hope I'm not meant to find that encouraging."
"No." Liara says, all business once again. She goes to a computer terminal and pulls up schematics that mean nothing to Traynor. "These are the blueprints for the Crucible. I found them in the Mars archives—it's a weapon of Prothean design, capable of mass destruction. We think so, anyway… With this… we may be able to stop the Reapers."
"If it was capable of stopping the Reapers then why didn't the Protheans use it?"
"I'm unsure. They may have not had time to complete it before they were wiped out."
"That's reassuring." She looks the plans over. "It's massive."
"It will take a great deal of people coming together to complete it." She hits a button on the computer, giving Traynor another angle of the weapon. "It's beautiful, isn't it? Simple but effective."
"What if it doesn't work?"
"Shepard will find a way. He can be very persuasive. He's an expert diplomat. Sometimes I think he was meant to be an asari." She laughs dryly but Traynor doesn't know why. Traynor considers Shepard as an asari. Certainly he might appeal to her more then. If only diplomacy were an option against the Reapers. "He'll unite the galaxy."
"And if he doesn't?"
Liara smiles again, wryly. "Then we all die."
The hit is complete. Perfect. It will smooth things considerably for all parties involved… except the deceased. Liara delivers the packet of information as reward; the exchange is finished: a life for information. It will help the war effort and it will help Shepard. Liara won't tell him; he'd disagree but this is the right thing to do. Some asari are unwilling to understand that sometimes diplomacy isn't the answer. There is a need for efficiency. Sometimes the only solution is swift and brutal violence.
Liara looks up at the cerulean skies of the Citadel, the streaks of clouds across the sky. It's nothing like Illium. She misses it there. The Citadel is adequate. The sunlight may be artificial but she is happy to see it. Though she reasons people of the Citadel may take the war effort more seriously if their place for recreation weren't so inviting.
She has a drink of tea and pretends that Matriarch Aethyta isn't looking at her. Liara enjoys Apollo's Café for their selection of drinks and food but most for the freedom it affords her. She knows the asari government distrusts her because of Matriarch Benezia. Her…relation to Aethyta is convenient and Aethyta's apparent sympathy for her more so. She does not prefer to be cooped up in the small space that is her office aboard the Normandy. If she can work outside and have a guard at her back—all the better.
She reads several reports from reporting agents and mentally catalogues who hasn't. She will wait longer before she considers them lost. A shadow looms over her, cutting the light. Liara looks up to see Traynor, smiling and outlined in the sun's light. "Specialist Traynor." She looks back at her datapad and wonders if she should make an attempt at civility.
Traynor pulls back a chair and sits. Without asking. She holds what looks like an iced coffee beverage. "What a beautiful day," she says looking around contentedly. "It feels so good to get out and walk and stretch my legs. I hadn't realized how much I'd missed not living under constant mood lighting."
"Mood lighting?" Liara asks quizzically. She doesn't understand the reference. She looks at her, waiting for her to go away. She doesn't. "Sorry—did we arrange a meeting?" She's perfectly aware they haven't, but presenting it in a way that suggests Traynor is inconveniencing her would be a fine tactic to get her to go away.
Traynor ignores the question. "Have you gone to see Lieutenant-Commander Williams? Commander Shepard went straight there."
"I haven't." Liara says. What's the use? What will she do for her? They're not friends. "I'm sure the hospital staff is doing all they can." Traynor stares at her. "And she'll be back to fighting form in no time." What does she expect her to say?
"Oh. I assumed you were friends. You…did fight together against Saren, if I'm not mistaken. I've done some research."
"I see." She hasn't monitored Traynor's searches. Perhaps it's time she starts. Is she expected to be close to Ashley because she fought alongside of her? Hm. She hadn't known that was sufficient cause. No. They have never been friendly. Ashley is ignorant, happily so, it would seem and. No, that's reason enough. "Her recovery will be a boon to Shepard's focus."
"Right." There's something about her tone that suggests she isn't convinced. "Do you spend a lot of time on the Presidium, Dr. T'Soni? Do you have friends here?" She looks around. "I haven't seen you spend any time with anyone outside of Commander Shepard. And even that's rare."
"You've been watching me?"
"No more so than anyone else," she says with a small shrug. "But…you are interesting."
"You're an important ally to Commander Shepard. And you're highly secretive. So secretive…that I wonder if you're hiding something." Liara has a drink of tea. If Traynor thinks anything of her absence of response she doesn't appear bothered. "Do you like spending time alone?"
"I don't see how that's any of your concern."
"It isn't." She laughs softly. "You make it hard to get to know you. We're in a war that threatens the lives of billions. The numbers we've lost is frightening."
"I don't see what that has to do with getting to know me." Liara says. An impish smile touches Traynor's lips. Liara doesn't react but she doesn't like it. She remembers other asari having that same look on their faces when she was younger. She's being teased or mocked somehow. She doubts Traynor will call her a pureblood, will ridicule her family and if she tried—. Regardless, she's uncomfortable. "Well, what is it?"
"It's nothing. It's only—you remind me of some of the people I worked with in the lab. They'd never look at you or think of anything outside of their work. They were… awkward."
"Excuse me?" The presumption is bothersome. "Don't confuse my unwillingness to talk with you as awkwardness. I'm very busy. The war you're talking about? Every moment you distract me is an opportunity for the Reapers to gain an advantage or war assets to be lost."
"I didn't know you could do so much while flipping through a datapad and having tea," Traynor stands. "I'd wanted…" she shakes her head. "I am sorry to have interrupted you, Dr. T'soni. I'll leave you to it." She stands and leaves.
She's left her iced beverage. Liara picks it up and turns but Traynor has moved far out of range. Liara won't chase her down. If she's awkward then… well. Maybe she can be a little awkward. Has she always been so short with people? It's only that she's trying to get important business taken care of. She won't hold Specialist Traynor's hand because she's… what had her point been in getting to know her? No one ever tries to get to know her unless they want knowledge, information. Liara can't think of any that Traynor might want. It's puzzling.
Liara is still turned when her eyes catch Matriarch Aethyta's. Aethyta shakes her head at her though Liara isn't sure why. Has she been watching her the entire time? Liara scowls. It's rude to spy on others.
"What have you discovered in there?" Traynor asks. She circles EDI's new body. "Have you been able to access Eva Coré's information?" To think that EDI took control of a body that was as badly damaged as Eva's had been. Traynor supposes it isn't Eva anymore. "This is remarkable."
"Yes." EDI lifts a hand, flexing the fingers of her new body. "Aside from its sexual purposes this unit has great combat capabilities, as Lieutenant-Commander Williams can attest to."
Traynor grimaces at the casual way that EDI speaks about Ashley's condition. It's possible that being in the shell of the woman who put Ashley in the hospital may have something to do with her aversion. "You mean you can use this body in battle?"
"That's correct. It is resistant to extreme temperatures. Furthermore, I can harden the unit to be bullet resistant and download any number of programs to upgrade fighting capabilities."
"Remarkable," Traynor says again. EDI watches her every step, shifting her face in her direction. She's used to EDI's dulcet and sensual voice over the intercom. To hear it come from a lithe and attractive gynoid is…disconcerting. Traynor is aware enough to know that there hasn't been a time that EDI hasn't watched her. It hits her. "Wait… you said your new body was… erm… utilized for sexual purposes?"
"The Illusive Man and Cerberus created this unit to be multi-purpose." There's a beat. "That was a joke."
Traynor stares at her, lips parted. "Really…?"
"No. The Illusive Man was close to a woman named Eva Coré many years ago. She was an ally and lover before her death. This unit is named after her. It is capable of most human functions, including sexual intercourse. A review of video logs stored within this frame support this assertion."
"Oh." She doesn't know what to say or feel about it. She has heard EDI and Joker joke at the bridge. She heard Joker in CIC exclaim when EDI approached in her new body. How strange that an artificial intelligence and an android can be warmer, friendlier, more open than Dr. Liara T'Soni. It bothers her how much Liara bothers her. Why can't Liara be more like EDI? Or… why can't EDI be human? Or Asari…? "That's…"
The door to the AI core room opens and Liara strides inside. She looks first at Traynor and then at EDI, eyes narrowing. "There you are," she says.
"I am everywhere." EDI tells her but looks at Traynor. "There is an increasing trend in Normandy crew approaching this form despite my installation aboard this ship."
"Sometimes it's nice to have a face to talk to," Traynor says, "instead of ourselves or computer monitors." She feels Liara's gaze on her and wonders if Liara thinks she directed the slight towards her.
"Organics have a preoccupation and preference for the familiar," EDI returns.
Traynor is ready with a response when Liara jumps in. "Have you been able to access the Prothean data?" she looks EDI's form over, not so impressed as Traynor. "To think of the destruction this platform has been capable of." She crosses her arms and tilts her head thoughtfully. "Perhaps…that is fitting given its host. Cerberus certainly seems intent on enabling their demise."
"May I help you, Dr. T'Soni?" EDI asks.
EDI's voice borders on sharp. Traynor is aware something has happened but isn't sure what and doesn't know how to ask. "I'd like whatever you've uncovered sent to my terminals for analysis. The purpose of salvaging Dr. Coré's unit was the Prothean data it might provide not an excuse for you to leave the Normandy."
"EDI's a social creature," Traynor is unsure why Liara is acting like such a bitch. Has she always been this way? She doesn't strike her as the sort Commander Shepard would befriend. Then again, the man is capable of charming snakes. "If she wants to go out I see little problem with it. She's contributed more than enough to the Normandy and the safety of its crew."
Liara's face is unreadable.
"Thank you, Samantha." EDI says. She looks at Liara. "The information you've requested has been transferred. Now, if you'll excuse me, I believe Jeff is waiting for me on the bridge. He pouts when I'm 'gone' for too long."
Traynor watches her exit, in awe of her form and grace with which the unit moves, the swing of her hips. She needs a girlfriend.
The door to the AI core unit shuts and Traynor recovers. It's fitting that EDI emerged from this room—in many ways, it's the place of her birth. If…artificial intelligence could be birthed. "You could stand to be nicer, you know."
"I'm sorry," she doesn't sound sorry at all, only perplexed, "is there a problem?"
"You were rude to EDI. Where did this attitude of yours come from? You say 'jump' and you expect people to ask 'how high'. I've met a few scientists like you but not quite like you, not quite so demanding and entitled."
Liara's eyes burn with what is sure to be a heated response. But whatever it is she swallows it. "That unit initiated a massacre at the Mars archives not long ago. It tried to kill me. It would have killed Shepard if it could have and it nearly killed Ashley. If you think my greeting 'rude' surely you can understand why given the circumstances."
"I suppose…if you put it that way." Traynor takes a breath. She knows how many still distrusts AIs and synthetics. She hadn't known (and still doesn't, she supposes) if Liara is amongst those. "Still, EDI has proven herself." She isn't sure if Liara rolls her eyes. Liara knows more than she's letting on but is in no rush to fill her in on the details. Traynor exits the AI core with Liara beside her. "You sound like someone used to getting her way."
"You'll catch more flies with honey than vinegar."
"That expression is only relevant to those with a poor rate of success. I don't fail."
"And you're arrogant too. You just keep getting better and better."
"Arrogance implies that I'm exaggerating."
"Mh." Traynor stops at the door to the med-bay suddenly. Liara nearly runs into her. Traynor studies her in the dim light. Her eyes are the lightest, clearest blue that Traynor has ever seen. Flawless. Her clothing marks her a scientist. She wonders what Liara is like in battle. Is she heated? Is she precise? Does she get angry? Is she a good fighter? "I heard that you're the one responsible for bringing Commander Shepard back."
"Did you happen to 'hear' that from EDI?"
Yes. "Is it true?"
"Officially it was the Lazarus Project run by Miranda Lawson and Cerberus. The Illusive Man paid for the reconstruction. Their methods are questionable and extreme but sometimes you have little choice."
"What was your role?"
"I retrieved Shepard's body." Her voice falters on 'body'. She averts her eyes, narrowed and thoughtful before returning them to Traynor. She straightens and lifts her chin slightly. It makes her look arrogant but stunning. "The Shadow Broker planned to give his body to the Collectors. I wasn't going to let him."
"The Shadow Broker?" Traynor has heard the title but knows next to nothing about who the individual might be. What is clear is the danger it poses to cross him. "That was…very brave of you. Was it difficult?"
There's a beat of silence. "It got done."
"And to think… if you hadn't dared to do the impossible…where would we be today? It terrifies me to think about it." What would the war against the Reapers be without Commander Shepard? Who could stand against them? Who could try to unite the races of the galaxy but him? Would they be doomed to fail? She can't think of anyone else who's half as convincing, motivating, who is half the soldier he is. Shepard has managed to do the impossible over and over again. And maybe he'll succeed once more and save them all. "I didn't think you and the Commander were so close."
"We aren't." She takes a breath and closes her eyes briefly. "But we've known each other for a time. We don't always keep in touch but I respect him. He's a good man. The world needs him."
"Doing what you did… did it come at a cost?"
A flicker of doubt crosses her face. "It had to be done."
"It sounds like the galaxy owes you one hell of a thank-you." Traynor lifts the back of her fingers to Liara's face. Her skin is cool and soft. Moments later Traynor feels warmth on Liara's cheeks. She isn't so hard now with the cold slipping away. "Has anyone told you how beautiful you are?" she asks softly.
"How…" Liara blinks. "I—ah—what are—what are you doing?" Liara steps back from her. Traynor arches her eyebrows, surprised at the nervous outburst. Liara brings a hand to her face where Traynor's fingers were. "I thought we were talking about—I don't quite recall what it is we were talking about." She admits. She laces her fingers and paces. Traynor follows her movements with confusion and amusement. "I have—there's. Goddess." She brings a hand to her forehead. "I…have work to do," she excuses herself, leaving Traynor in the medbay, flummoxed.
"All right…" Traynor breathes to herself. "What the hell just happened?"
EDI comes over the intercom. "You experienced a failed attempt at courtship."
Courtship? That wasn't— She bites her tongue. Maybe she was flirting but—"Thanks, EDI," Traynor mutters. "Was that a joke?"
"Yes. It was."
Traynor can hear the laughter in her tone. Great. Now she's being mocked by the AI. Traynor exits the medbay and looks at Liara's office door. She could try to talk to her—maybe apologize… but what can she say? What sort of reaction is that anyway? Liara acts as if she's some schoolgirl who's never been flirted with. How can that be? She's over a hundred years old. Maybe it's only Traynor's presence that Liara finds a nuisance.
Traynor goes to the crew quarters and lies down on her small bunk bed. She tries to read but can't focus. Liara has proved more interesting than she could have imagined. She thinks of the stammering, awkward woman in the medbay and smiles.