A/N: Sooooorrrry it took me so long to update this. Basically my copy of ME3 (ps3) has been broken and no one is fixing anything (Damn you, Bioware/EA PS3 support) so I can't play it and I was worried I'd be losing whatever immersion I need for writing. I decided "screw it" and just wrote it anyway. Hopefully upcoming chapters won't take so long. And hopefully it reads okay. Thanks for the support and reviews, everyone! There's no guilt like an alert or a review. Again, this chapter is with the premise that Liara solo'd going after the Shadow Broker on her own without Shep. I think without romancing her/him she's a harder character.

It's startling how quickly screams can die away. Bullets hurry the agonized into silence. Tela Vasir was expecting her and came with backup. Liara moves past the hallway of bodies. Their lives are on Vasir's hands—Vasir had to know they would only slow her down.

It's late in the Citadel. The usual false and cheerful sunlight has dimmed to simulate the setting sun and the approach of night. Liara waited many hours for her opportunity. Better to fight while civilians are scarce. Better to put precautions and distractions into place so she can sneak into corridors where need be.

Citadel Security is still painfully flawed—it works to her benefit this time. The guards are overburdened and there are refugees everywhere demanding attention or causing trouble.

Traynor has sent her several messages. Liara responded to the first, hours ago while she sipped tea and did some work on her data pad. The others she hasn't bothered with. Goddess, it isn't as if she is out in the middle of a battlefield. But there she would have Shepard as backup, at least. No. This is Tela Vasir. She is only one woman.

Another message arrives. Liara takes a silent breath and glances at her omni-tool.

Where are you?

Liara bites her tongue. Are all humans so clingy? She is on business. She doesn't need to be hounded when she's trying to focus. The lights in the steely hallway she stands in flicker. Liara holds tightly to her gun. There's movement in the shadows.

Liara steps out. "Vasir!" she lifts her gun. Vasir stands at the end of the hallway. A smile poised on her lips, an M-15 vindicator assault rifle lifted delicately to rest against her shoulder. Liara grips the M-6 tightly. Her hands feel sweaty.

"You lost, T'Soni?" Vasir asks. "Watch where you point that thing."

Liara takes a cautious step forward. "I already handled your soldiers."

"Ah." Vasir looks at them with an irreverent smile. "I was hoping they'd discourage you but I'm surprised. You clean up nicely."

"If you thought they could stop me you were mistaken."

"So…naturally you think you can handle me. People say that you're arrogant. They're right." She drops the assault rifle to her side. "Don't know why you bothered hunting me down. Haven't you heard that it takes a Spectre to take out a Spectre? You're just a little girl. No matter who you are now. Don't fool yourself into thinking you can take me."

Liara grits her jaw. The last time her heart beat so wildly Samantha was kissing her, touching her. This heightened sense again, triggered by the potential for violence. She's excited and scared. There was a time when holding a gun frightened her, repulsed her. Now, she can think of nothing she wants more. She wants Vasir's blood. She wants her dead. "We'll see." She thinks of Feron. She has to think of him before her resolve weakens. Vasir stopped her from getting to the Broker. She killed her contacts, erased her leads. Feron died strapped to a table, tortured for years.

"You're working with Shepard. Run back to him. The Council backs Shepard. I work for the Council. They wouldn't like it if I killed their little Prothean expert."

"So you think you can kill me?" Liara asks. She thinks of Vasir's failed attempts. At first it had been frightening. Liara was accustomed to battling husks and mercenaries working for Saren, not people personally invested in ending her. It was different without Shepard. She had to evolve. She had to harden. "You haven't yet."

"I wasn't trying."

"And you won't fight now?" She smiles coldly. "Do you think that will stop me?"

Vasir sneers. "You don't have what it takes."

"No?" She takes another step forward and pulls the trigger. She pulls it five more times.

Traynor checks her messages. Nothing. It's 21:00 hours.

Liara left early afternoon. Traynor has already whittled through the majority of the work she was fed. A whim made her trace the delivery signatures. It was sent from the Broker network, from Liara herself. After the initial anger Traynor dug more until she found a name: Tela Vasir. A Spectre. A hero Spectre, responsible for stopping countless assassinations and acts of terrorism against the Citadel and the Council, responsible for the capture of more than two hundred slavers. She's an asari, an attractive one.

Has Liara only gone to rendezvous with her? An inkling of jealousy manifests. But why would she take a gun? She tells herself she's only worrying but can't help but think of her the night prior. Liara was a bundle of nerves, aching to be distracted before dismissing her, telling her she had to work. And then she fed her a mountain of work and pretended it was a pity she couldn't join her.

Traynor wonders how often Liara lies or why she feels the need to lie to her. She scans for Liara's omni-tool but it's offline or she's masked its frequency. The important thing is not to panic. Whatever it is that Liara's doing she wanted it kept secret. Commander Shepard has asked about her—Traynor had no answers. Now she does. Is it right to go to him? Will Liara be angry?

She weighs her options and takes the elevator to Shepard's cabin. She tries to settle herself. She could go after Liara herself but what's the point? Whatever Liara's mixed up in—it isn't anything her own military prowess will ease. She knocks on the door. Ashley answers, in a tanktop and underwear. Samantha flushes.

"Do you know what time it is, Specialist?" Ashley crosses her arms and leans into the door. Samantha rips her gaze away from her muscled arms and toned legs. To her chest, no, no, higher, to her face. Oh. She's right pretty, isn't she? Traynor had forgotten, having only the mortification of being caught watching porn seared into her person and nothing more.

"I thought…you were gone," she mutters. Hadn't Ashley returned to the Citadel? Wasn't she only touring?

"You thought I was gone?" Ashley asks. "So… you came to pay Skipper a visit? At…near midnight?"

"Yes." She nods. "Erm. No. That isn't what I meant—" she takes a breath. "This is all—It's about Dr. T'Soni. Liara," she clarifies.

"Wrong floor," Ashley hits the button on the door but Traynor squeezes into the room before the door closes. Shepard is shirtless on the bed, beneath a sheet. Traynor blushes further. Oh, great. This is exactly what she wanted to interrupt. Ashley crosses her arms and scoffs. "We weren't looking for company."

Traynor looks from Shepard to Ashley. "Sorry—I don't mean to intrude during your—erm—private time—but ah, it's Liara. She's been gone all day and she took a gun and… I think she may have gone to meet a Spectre—Tela Vasir. I ah—did a bit of spying on her," she admits with some embarrassment. "I'd go after her myself but I think she's in trouble and if she is—I can't help her. I'm sorry. I didn't know what else to do."

"You did the right thing," Shepard says. "Give us a few to get ready and we'll head out."

Ashley looks pointedly at Traynor, a glimmer of a taunting smile on her lips. "You have really lousy timing, you know that?" She grabs hold of the back of her shirt and pushes her out the room as if she were a toddler or prisoner. "Maybe you should spend less time on asari porn and more on P.T.?"

"Actually—" She starts to say but the door slides shut behind her. Traynor stares at it helplessly. Could this be any more humiliating?

"Asari porn?" she hears Commander Shepard's muffled voice behind the door.

More humiliating? Why yes, it can be. It doesn't matter. She needs Liara safe. She returns to her station at CIC and sends another desperate message, hoping for a response. Nothing comes.

Tela Vasir doesn't move. She is an easy target. Not all Spectres are created equal.

The bullets fly through the air. Liara doesn't breathe. This is the moment. Now she can rest easy. Her gun smokes. The bullets stop violently short, colliding with a barrier sprung from nowhere. The bullets flatten, turning magma red before they're flung back at her in every direction.

Liara dives to the side. One of the bullets nicks her arm, burning it. She squelches back a howl as the other bullets slam into the wall and floor around her, leaving smoldering, blackened holes. Her omni-tool flashes. A new message. By the Goddess—

She has no time for ire. Vasir is rushing her. Liara scrambles to her feet only to be blasted off them a moment later. She slams brutally into a wall, the air knocked out of her. Her omni-tool flickers and dies. She crashes to her knees. Pain flares throughout her. She looks at Vasir who doesn't smile anymore but approaches with ruthless focus.

Vasir is a biotic powerhouse. Liara read the reports but she hadn't imagined… Had she been arrogant? Her own biotic abilities have evolved significantly since she met Shepard. Most foes don't give her pause—but she has never fought asari Spectres, centuries older than her.

She should have given this more thought. Isn't she always questioning the recklessness of humans? And here she has let her emotions cloud her judgment. How has she been so foolish? Will her need for revenge prove to be her undoing? No time to think now. On your feet!

She doesn't have the chance to stand on her own. She's ripped to her feet, held in Vasir's biotic grip. She can't breathe. Goddess. What has she done? What of the war? What of the Reapers? What of Shepard and Samantha? But Feron… Feron didn't deserve it either. Tears squeeze out of her eyes. Vasir hurls her through the air. Liara is flung out a glass window. She flies out into the openness of the Presidium. Everything is still. The false stars shine in the false darkness. It's cold and beautiful. Will she die here?

She plummets several stories to the Presidium. She salvages the landing at the last moment, pulling up a biotic field but the pain is still crippling. Glass falls around her, into her as she gasps for breath, not able to get any air into her lungs. Vasir follows after, gracefully flowing down with a biotic flush several feet from her. Vasir lifts an arm and everything around Liara, tables, benches blast apart in all directions.

Liara barely manages to roll away, to hobble to her feet. She can't stand straight. She falters and drops to one knee. Vasir approaches. Liara glowers and fidgets for her gun. It feels impossibly heavy in her hand and she scarcely has the energy to lift it.

Vasir stops in her tracks. Liara breathes raggedly but is warm with the thread of victory. It's short lived. Liara hears a click. She hears two. Ashley moves ahead, assault rifle at the ready, aimed at Vasir's head. Shepard follows beside her. Liara lowers her face, ashamed. "Two Spectres against one," Ashley says. "Guess who's going to kick whose ass."

"Set your weapon down," Shepard glances at Liara before looking back at Vasir, the hold on his hand cannon steady. "There doesn't need to be any bloodshed."

"I didn't know this was a party," Vasir lifts the assault rifle. "She tailed me here. I know what we're up against. I'm not stupid. You really think I want to take you out? Hell, you may be the last hope the galaxy has against the Reapers."

"Put your weapon down," Ashley says again.

Liara looks at her. She's changed. She used to be hotheaded. Maybe she still is. But here she stands beside Shepard, strong and unflinching, professional. Here to help her out. Goddess, why are they here? Samantha. It must have been Samantha. Liara's arm trembles. She's still pointing the gun at Vasir. "Shepard, it's her fault Feron is dead." He shouldn't be dead. It's all her fault, isn't it?

"Who?" he asks.

Liara realizes she's never told him about Feron. She pulls the trigger anyway. Vasir's fast. She doesn't need a barrier. She's under it, storming forward. The ground shakes, Shepard and Ashley scramble and find cover.

Vasir's hand is on Liara's throat, crushing tightly. "You stupid bitch. You really want me to kill you, don't you?"

Liara meets her eyes. Black is creeping into her vision. Then Vasir isn't there anymore. Liara falls to the ground. Shepard? No. Shepard is beside Ashley, helping her to her feet. Vasir flies through the air like a rag doll before hitting a railing so hard that Liara hears something crack. Then she's limp, holding to the railing, barely able to stay on her knees.

"I don't give a rat's ass who you are," Aethyta says to Vasir. Liara looks up at Aethyta, standing in front of her, shielding her, aglow with biotic power, fists clenched. "Nobody touches my girl. Try it again if you can get up. I don't need an asari commando squad to kick your ass."

Ashley isn't sure who to aim the rifle at. Shepard stands beside Ashley, lowering her rifle. Liara kneels, grateful and blank, useless and defeated. Aethyta stoops in front of her. She touches Liara's bleeding face delicately and sighs. "Little Wing. It turns out you're not a krogan after all, huh?" Her voice is unexpectedly soft. "You big baby."

Liara reaches for her before letting her hand fall away. Aethyta pulls her close into an embrace. Liara breathes unsteadily. She watches through tear filled eyes as Ashley and Shepard go to Vasir, talk to her, let her walk away.

Huerta Memorial Hospital is a mournful place filled with groaning bodies and despairing families. It's 02:45 hours. Traynor is usually asleep now, not in hospitals visiting friends who were fool enough to take on a Spectre.

She makes it to the receptionist desk and is turned away— it's not visiting hours. Traynor argues and comes close to pleading but the thin-lipped receptionist has heard it all and isn't having any of it.

"You'll have to come see your girlfriend later," the receptionist tells her dismissively.

Traynor reluctantly agrees. Is Liara her girlfriend? She hasn't had one of those in a while. She exits to the elevator and is momentarily trapped in a malfunctioning steel death trap. A voice comes on over the elevator comm. "Sorry, we've been having some problems with the elevator— no clue when we'll get it fixed. We have a few work arounds... We'll have you out of there soon."

Traynor sighs and leans tiredly into the elevator wall, mentally reviewing the hours prior. Commander Shepard and Lieutenant-Commander Williams returned hours after Traynor spoke to them, interrupting their tryst. She doesn't blame Ashley for being irritated. She would be too if they'd interrupted her and Liara. Both Spectres looked run down and exhausted. "Everything's going to be fine," Shepard clamped a reassuring hand on her shoulder but was too tired to be forthcoming with the details.

It was Aethyta who messaged her, letting her know Liara was at Huerta Memorial. "I used to think she got Nezzy's brains but now I'm not so sure. She inherited a bit too much of her Dad's love for fighting, dumb thing. Thanks for letting me know what was going on. Liara did good landing you. Drinks on the house from now on. Have you slept with her yet?"

Traynor smiles faintly, curious about what may have happened. Everyone is acting cavalier about matters. Maybe it wasn't as frightening as imagined. She returns to the Normandy once the engineers patch whatever was wrong with the elevator and crashes into a restless sleep.

Is it possible to be with someone when you worry so much about them? Can something like that survive?

They've stuffed her with so much medi-gel that Liara is practically embalmed in it. She wakes in a sterile hospital room with a stunning view. Endless stretches of sunny skies are complimented by mountains, illusions, she's sure. Birds rise and dive out of her line of sight.

She's numb. They gave her painkillers but she's sure that the drugs have little to do with her fugue. It's dramatic to make her be here. She's embarrassed. She didn't get a scratch on Vasir. What would have happened if Shepard and Ashley hadn't arrived? What would she have done without her father to protect her?

Liara sighs miserably. She's bandaged from where the glass buried into her. Vasir was fast, so fast, so surprising. Liara is used to being untouchable and removed. She had not known she could be...fragile.

She frowns gently and turns her head when the door to her room hisses open. It's Shepard. Liara looks away from him. "Shepard," she says. She meant to say more. Is he worried for her? Is he here to lecture her? Both are unbearable. She took matters into her own hands and lost.

"I don't like that I have to keep coming back here to check on my team." He picks up a stool and plants it beside the hospital bed, taking a seat. Then he's quiet. Shepard is a patient man. Liara remembers when she used to be patient. It seems like so long ago. The galaxy isn't kind to those who are patient. The galaxy demands action. "What happened?"

"It is a long story," she says staring out the glass wall.

"I have time."

She shakes her head once. "No, you don't, Shepard. Our time is valuable. I risked my own—but I shouldn't take yours as well." She looks at her fingers, nicked with cuts and bruises. "I did what I thought was right."

"You decided to take on a Spectre. You didn't tell any of us what the hell was going on. What if something happened to you? Something worse than this? We need you in the war against the Reapers."

"You mean my network?"

"No," he says firmly. "What could make you go after Vasir?"

She's quiet a long time. She doesn't know how to have face-to-face conversations. She once thought it was the universe that had gone mad but maybe it's her. She doesn't know how to relate to anybody anymore. Her morals are questionable because her insight is keen, her information unquestionable. "You're so naïve, Shepard. You think all Spectres are like you."

"I know that Vasir has done a lot of good work."

"She worked for the Shadow Broker."

"You're the Shadow Broker now."

"It's different," she snaps. "It was different." Shepard will never understand. She could present the facts to him and he'd find a way to look between the lines, to find some reasonable solution. Sometimes reasonable solutions are the solutions of cowards, of those who aren't willing to go as far as is necessary. "I'm not sure how much Cerberus or Miranda Lawson ever told you about my involvement in the recovery of your body." EDI and Miranda Lawson knew for practical purposes—how much of that knowledge they shared with Shepard is still unclear. Liara hasn't wanted to talk about it and Shepard never thought to ask her. It was more convenient that way. "The Shadow Broker wanted to sell your body to the Collectors."

There's a long silence. "And Vasir was involved in that? She was helping him?"

"No. No." She takes a breath. "Not directly. I had a contact. A Cerberus agent. A Shadow Broker agent." When she says it aloud it sounds ridiculous, she sounds crazy. "Both. He helped me recover your body. He betrayed everyone for you and for me. He kept them distracted while I escaped with what was left of you." She remembers seeing Shepard's body. If it could be called that. It was... She steels herself. She won't think back to that woman who cried for so many reasons. "The Shadow Broker didn't take kindly to that. Naturally he captured him and tortured him for two years."


"That was the reason I couldn't join you on Illium. I had to get information so I could find him. Save him. Vasir was working for the Broker. He didn't want me to find him and he used her to kill my contacts whenever I came close."

"She was an assassin."

Liara considers. "Yes, in a way. I have no doubt that her many heroic deeds were accomplished by the information the Broker fed her in exchange."

"You don't sound angry."

Liara supposes she doesn't. She's tired. She isn't sure that she wouldn't have acted accordingly if she was in Vasir's shoes. What did Vasir know about the Shadow Broker trying to sell Shepard's body to the Collectors? Probably nothing. In fact, Liara found nothing in her extensive searches to prove that Vasir did know. "I am not one to judge. I don't have the footing," she admits vacantly. "Sometimes the ends justify the means, Shepard. I worked with Cerberus. You worked with Cerberus. Vasir worked with the Shadow Broker. I became the Shadow Broker. We all kill to keep others safe. I've killed from afar, with information."

"What have you done?"

It's better that he doesn't know. She thinks to tell him that but knows Shepard is stubborn and wouldn't let it go until she fesses up. He needs her for the mission but he's principled and would throw her off it, swearing to find some other way. Some other way that he wouldn't find. "It's nothing. I have already said too much. All you need to know is that if it weren't for Vasir I may have been able to save Feron."

"That's supposition. We don't kill on supposition."

"You let her walk away, without even talking to me."

"Come off it." This time, anger enters his voice. "If you'd told me about any of this from the beginning it wouldn't have happened that way. I've done some digging around. I've talked to the Council. She's been working on Thessia; she's been helping the resistance there. We need her. What's done is done. We don't have time for vendettas; we have something far bigger at stake. You need to let it go."

Liara grinds her jaw. "That's easy for you to say, isn't it? Do you think you're the only one who makes sacrifices? You wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for me and Feron."

Shepard stands and looks at her. "I need to know that if you see Vasir again you won't try anything stupid. You're tough, Liara but she wiped the floor with you."

Liara won't let it go, can't let it go. If she sees Vasir again she'll try to take another shot. She'll do better. Killing her will wipe clean the injustice. She's killed others for less. But she knows what Shepard wants to hear and she knows how to reassure him. "Maybe you're right. There are more important things at stake. I am sorry for—the inconvenience."

Shepard looks at her a long time, gauging her. Liara looks out the glass wall. "You had us all worried," he brushes a kiss onto her forehead. "The Normandy isn't the same without you. Heal up quickly. We're all waiting for you."

Traynor flips through an old Asari Parenting data magazine. It is one of the scant selection of data magazines available, others being Elcor Today and H (the Hanar magazine). Traynor thinks the asari magazine the most immediately relatable until she scrolls through. There are recommendations for asari commando schools as well as the most exclusive clubs to dance at for a century or two. "A century or two in any club will teach the asari the nature of patience, tact and diplomacy much needed for our Matriarch stage or Matron stage when we're searching for a suitable bondmate. Our equanimity will shine through when dealing with krogan, batarian and especially human bondmates."

Traynor blanches. She realizes she's a human (how had she forgotten?) and that Liara is asari. If they do work out she'll die long before Liara. Long, long, long, long before her.

How depressing.

There are several articles on new bondmate ceremonies. Some quite lovely though she doesn't know that Illium or Thessia necessarily look the way that they do in the magazine. Maybe in London? No, London is definitely out. What is she thinking? It wasn't long ago that she didn't know whether Liara could tolerate her presence and now she's thinking of bondmate ceremonies? It would be nice to get married to someone someday. She doesn't know that anyone will live long enough for it to happen.

A presence crashes down next to her in one of the chairs. Aethyta. She snatches the data magazine from Traynor and looks at it. "I thought she was here because she got taken down. Don't tell me you already knocked her up." Traynor gapes and flushes. Did she? How—no. She wonders if it would be appropriate to ask Aethyta about asari birth control. She keeps meaning to ask. Aethyta slaps her firmly on the back. "Buck up, kid. Liara's not pregnant. Not that I know of," she shoots her a look.

Traynor smiles nervously and wonders if asari fathers get as pissed off about others possibly knocking up their daughters as human males do. Traynor utters non-words and then a nurse blessedly tells her she can go see Liara. Traynor stands, spilling a host of other data magazines in the process and collects them, setting them down beside Aethyta. "I'll try not to be too long," she tells Aethyta.

"You couldn't if you wanted to," Aethyta says with a smirk.

Traynor doesn't know what to make of the remark but ignores it and rushes ahead, on the heels of the impatient nurse. Ah, she didn't get flowers. She should have gotten flowers. What was she thinking? Parenting and bondmate ceremonies are a long way off if she can't manage to remember small things like that.

Her stomach is in knots. She pauses outside of the door before closing her eyes, taking a breath and going in.

Liara faces out the window before glancing her way. Her face is unreadable. Traynor wonders if she's angry. Traynor does her best to smile bravely. "When I said we should play doctor— this isn't what I had in mind." There's a stool next to her and Traynor sits. Liara's face and arms are bruised in dark purples and reds. She looks remarkably vulnerable in the hospital gown. Her clothing is folded on a counter. "Is it all right that I've come?" Liara looks at her and still she says nothing. Is she intentionally torturing her? Traynor sets her fingers on the bed, not daring to take her hand. "I came early morning but they sent me away. How are you?"

"Fine." There's a long moment. "This is all an...exaggeration. They think I may have suffered a concussion. They're keeping me for analysis. I can do this aboard the Normandy with Dr. Chakwas." she sighs.

"I'm just glad you're…" she takes in the bandaging and the bruising before taking Liara's hand. It's cold. Traynor closes her other hand around it. "What were you doing?" Liara shakes her head. "Do you know how worried I was? You took off to the Citadel with a gun after sending me a mountain of data that didn't need looking after. What were you playing at?"

"Distractions are valuable," she tells her without feeling. "I employed a few on the Citadel, if it makes you feel any better." It doesn't. "It keeps work clean and witnesses at bay. It salvages my reputation and Shepard's." There's a long silence, then she speaks as if having remembered. "It keeps civilians safe." Liara finally looks at her, her lips thinning before her eyes narrow thoughtfully, her lower lip trembles. Then she steadies it. "I needed you away from me. I wanted you safe."

"And you don't think I want the same for you?" she squeezes her hand gently.

"I warned you that I'm…not well-practiced with this. With people." She takes a shaky breath.

"You didn't return my messages."

"I didn't mean for everything to take so long. My omni-tool was damaged; I couldn't return your messages." She shakes her head. "I don't need you worrying after me."

Traynor pulls back, releasing her hand. "I can't exactly control it."

"I've been alone the majority of my life. These—stints with Shepard and you are the only time I've broken away from that isolation. I don't know how to not be alone. And when I'm with others I'm reminded why I always have been." Liara says dispassionately. "Everyone acts as if I cannot accomplish anything on my own but they're wrong. I have. And I can take care of myself."

"Naturally. It's all that wonderful self-care that landed you in this current predicament, isn't it?"

Liara frowns. "I needed to right a wrong. I've been chasing Vasir for years. If it wasn't for your meddling—"

"You might be dead?" Traynor asks. She hates her voice, indignant and angry. Worst yet, she hates how her eyes water. She's tired and stressed. She's disappointed and afraid. Also, the Reapers are attacking and her family is possibly dead. She has larger issues to worry about. She should focus on something else, anything else. "Look… I actually have a good deal of work to do—thanks to your diversion." She goes to the door. "I'm sorry if I screwed things up for you. I just didn't know and I thought—" Thought that she might get killed. "I wanted to help you."

Liara keeps silent.

"Why couldn't you have talked to me? Why can't you talk to me now? Aren't you comfortable without a monitor in front of you? I don't want this if it's going to be lies…. Or some experiment for you to feel as if you've accomplished something new. I want more than that. You should, too." She's said too much. To think that not too long ago she'd been getting carried away with herself, thinking that they might have a future together. That will teach her. "Sorry," she mutters. "Believe it or not, I don't make it a habit of berating hospital patients. Not on weekdays. Maybe we moved too quickly. I don't know. Is it really so bad to depend on someone?" Traynor shakes her head. Is Liara capable of being anyone other than the Shadow Broker? Is ruthless precision all she can articulate? No, she's better than that. She can be more than that. But Traynor doesn't have the energy to fight. "Feel better. I'll visit later."

Liara stares out the window, jaw set hard, saying nothing.

Liara's heart flutters uncomfortably. There is a sick, crushing feeling in her chest, like a black hole. Her eyes are glassy. She blinks and wipes them. They come away wet. She doesn't understand any of this.

She has tired of being kept in the hospital against her will. She won't sit idly by while others come to tell her of her failure. She swings her legs over the side of the bed, grimaces and stands. A dizzying wave of vertigo hits her. She takes some breaths and wills herself to not lose her footing. She won't reach out for support. She doesn't need it.

Why does everyone act as if she's broken? She isn't broken, she's only unwilling to let emotions guide her. Don't they see how illogical that is? Facts are the only things that can be relied upon. It isn't wrong to be this way. So why does she feel so awful?

Maybe she can't beat Vasir in conventional combat. But there must be another way. Some other way… She cannot allow Feron's death to go unpunished. Maybe it's her fault. Maybe she should have found another way. Maybe she should have fought Shepard to help her.

Goddess. She takes unsteady steps to where her clothes are and dresses unsteadily. After the Reapers are defeated, what will happen? Life will go on, everyone will scatter again and no doubt she'll be exiled back into a life that has little meaning for her.

What has she dedicated her life to? The Protheans. What a laugh. She thinks of Javik and feels herself a fool for her dedication. Samantha told her she'd done valuable work. At the time, Liara agreed.

Samantha… Goddess. What will happen between them? Anything? Is Samantha finished with her? The thought is unsettling and sad. Ultimately it doesn't matter. Humans don't live long anyway.

She brings a hand to her forehead, eyes stinging. She gasps and leans forward, resting against the small but heavy medical cart. Was she always this way? She doesn't remember that girl that everyone preferred. The door hisses open behind her and Liara straightens, taking hold of her jacket—it's torn again, and slipping into it.

She wipes her expression of feeling and turns. Aethyta. "They've released me so I'll be going," Liara tells her.

"You're a pretty good liar. But I just talked to the nurse and she tells me they want to hold you for another day or two."

"That's absurd," she waves the suggestion away and in so doing nearly loses her balance. "There is a Reaper war happening and medical teams and supplies are strained. It's wasteful to use that time and those resources on me. Especially since I have Dr. Chakwas on the Normandy."

"Oh, and you're planning on being seen by her, I'm sure."

"Well, yes." Not really. She shuffles. Aethyta stares at her. Liara mourns. It's harder to lie to her father. Or maybe Aethyta, being centuries upon centuries older than her is able to sniff her out. "Look, I can't stay here any longer. I shouldn't have stayed here as long as I did. The Shadow Broker network is important to the war effort. Without me it sits useless. There are so many things to take care of that—every moment I spend here is a waste of lives."

"How important you are. Given your impressive body count I didn't think you were too bothered by a waste of lives." Aethyta always mocks her. Liara doesn't understand it. Benezia wasn't this way. Beneazia was always kind and thoughtful.

"Sometimes you have to take lives to save lives." Liara moves to step past her and stumbles.

Aethyta catches her. "You go out of your way to make me worry, don't you?" Liara glares at her and then looks away. "I used to drive Nezzy crazy with this shit. I thought it was hysterical at the time but you don't even look like you're enjoying yourself."

"I don't need to enjoy myself. I'm not here to enjoy myself."

"Are you sure you're my daughter?" Aethyta smiles grimly and rights her, holding her shoulders tightly. "You and that Samantha okay? She looked like a kicked puppy when she left."

"Everything is fine," Liara snaps. She closes her eyes, thinking of her. She doesn't want to think of her. "We hardly know each other anyway."

"So you're going to play it that way, huh?" Aethyta looks at her for a long time. "Well… the only way you're going to learn is by falling on your face." She touches her face but Liara doesn't look at her. "Can you at least promise me that you'll try to be careful? You have no idea the tips I'm losing visiting you here."

Liara smiles thinly. She isn't sure how serious Aethyta is. Knowing her, not very. "I promise."

"I take it back. You're not a great liar." Aethyta releases her.

Liara takes a breath and shuffles where she stands. "I had no idea you were so…powerful."

"Well, I am a Matriarch and I used to be a commando. Do the math."

"Maybe someday I'll…be that strong. In the meantime, I'll have to devise other means." She bites her tongue. "Thank you for…helping me. I won't put you in that position again." Aethyta's eyes soften. Liara looks at the floor. Then she lifts her face and rights herself. She runs her hand along the sleeves of the jacket, noticing where the material is tighter, thanks to the bandages, where it's torn. It's splattered blue. Will Samantha fix it again…?

"I can walk you back to the Normandy," Aethyta says. "I won't make you hold my hand or anything."

Liara smiles wryly. "No. Thank you. I'm fine." She takes a step and feels dizzy. She allows a moment. Takes another unsteady breath. She waits for a smart-assed remark from Aethyta. It doesn't come. What she gets is Aethyta's hand gently on her back, the other on her shoulder, straightening her.

They exchange nothing further. Liara is grateful to her. If only she could stay in this room where things are easy. It is reassuring to be cared for. A strange feeling. One she cannot become accustomed to. She has to rely on herself. Liara hardens her eyes, strips any emotion of her face, buries her dangerous emotions and exits.