AN: Sorry for the short chapter. Writing is slow at the moment, because my other story has taken over most of my head. Still felt I had to give you something. Besides I try to time the fluffy conclusion of this fic with the darker comings in Fate Reversed. Might keep me balanced.
Liara woke with a start. Confused she took in her surroundings, expecting to be in her apartment on Illium. She was not. As Garrus entered through the lock, alerted by her abrupt movements, it came back to her. This was the ship they had taken to Elatania, she had melded with the planet and discovered the beacon. And the alterations of the Crucible's plans. That was the last thing she remembered.
"How long have I been unconscious?" it was the logical explanation. "What happened down there?"
"You tell me," Garrus said with a little bit of his usual mirth. "First you fuck the planet, then you pull that stunt with the freaky laser-eyes. And in the end you lost consciousness," he paused for a moment. "We don't do unconscious anymore Liara. We are either conscious or dead. This shit is getting weirder by the minute."
"How long Garrus?"
"Oh, just over twenty-four hours," he waved his hand dismissively. "Nothing to worry about, if we were back in the old days. Medical scans came back clean, insisting you were closer to sleeping than true unconsciousness.
"Tali's down there with one of the Geth, examining the data on the crystal the same way you did. They have confirmed what you said – the plans are not the same.
"Tali's running in circles. No matter what reading devices she uses, the plans are the same as on the extranet. Yet when a sentient directly reads the data there are the distinctions you mentioned. Someone or something is getting to extreme lengths to conceal them. Why?"
"I really don't know Garrus. I never expected this to get out of hand. I..." Liara broke off, just as she was about to admit that this was not her highest priority right now. She had felt Shepard again! On the planet, part of the planet!
Garrus regarded her for a full minute. Neither was inclined to speak immediately.
"What are you not telling me T'Soni?"
Liara averted her eyes, not wanting to face the Turian. "Nothing."
"Liara..." he almost growled, but not without affection. "I've known you now for what? Five years? Can't believe it's only been five years. By now I have figured out when you are holding something back."
"It's not like you would believe me anyway Garrus."
"Try me," he asked dryly. "I've seen some crazy shit, as she called it, during my time with Shepard and the last couple of days... Let's just say I would be surprised if Shepard jumped into the room right now and shooting me with a kid's pistol, yelling 'Enkindle this!'," seeing that his little joke had made the Asari smile at least a little, he let his mandibles twitch in humour. The levity of the moment was short-lived however. "Please Liara, we want to help you, but we can only do that if you let us."
Liara wanted nothing more – well except for one thing obviously - than to just tell her friend. But she was afraid. Despite his words could he really believe in what she had experienced? What would he do if he thought her insane? She was so sick of their pity! She just wanted her Lea back, was that too much to ask?
Her resolve finally crumbling, Liara's shoulders sagged in defeat.
"That's just it Garrus. Shepard is alive but I have no idea where she is," Liara admitted with a small voice. "Or rather, I think I know where she is but I do not know how to get her back."
Garrus made a hrumphing sound but otherwise didn't seem too surprised. He motioned for Liara to continue.
"She came to me the day you met me on Illium. There is no doubt in my mind that it was truly her. When I melded with the biosphere of Elatania she was there again. I don't believe I would have been successful without her help," seeing the inquisitive gleam in the Turians eyes she stopped.
"When you say, she came to you, you don't mean physically, right? I guess you melded with her."
"It would be more correct to say that she joined with me. It was unlike anything we have shared before." Garrus didn't miss the content smile that appeared on Liara's face, the far away look in her eyes. He couldn't help himself to fire a quick jape.
"I don't guess I have to play – what do Humans call it? Ah, godfather in a couple of months?"
Seeing Liara turn an embarrassed shade of purple made him shake with laughter. It was good to have Liara back among the living. That she could react to his banter sealed the deal for him.
Regaining her composure Liara managed a weak smile. She didn't mind the jokes at her expanse that much anymore. After Lea had taken her under her wings and explained that they weren't always meant to hurt, she had relaxed a lot, even if she was still awkward in social encounters at times.
Liara had been subjected to much abuse during her childhood, the other Asari children constantly bullying and making fun of her because of her pureblood status. Her new friends, all of them non-Asari, had no such prejudices. They didn't understand how her parentage could possibly make her less of a person. Some of them, like Lea even got angry at the very thought of the intolerance that had been heaped on Liara and had been very vocal the few times some of the Asari they had met had taken issue of her because of it.
It did not stop her friends from making fun of Liara, but they were always careful not to hurt her feelings. It took a little getting used to, but after some time the jokes made Liara feel more included instead of cast out, something she would never have expected. She had even begun to tease back much to the delight of her friends.
She was tempted to pay Garrus back in kind and tell him that she was indeed pregnant, just to see his reaction. Liara was certain he would be happy for her. After he got over the shock, that is.
"So you believe me?" she asked, almost pleaded, deciding to bring the conversation back on track instead.
"Sure, why not? Something is going on, and it's not the first time the Commander makes an unexpected entrance. Seriously, sometimes I think she ducked out of view for a couple of moments just to make her reappearance more dramatic," he said, eliciting another small smile. Sitting down beside Liara. "Listen, I know I've been kind of an ass back on Illium. And I don't know if I had believed you back then when you said Shepard's still alive," he reached out to give her hands, folded in her lap, a gentle squeeze. "But I believe you now and I will be with you every step of the way. Same goes for Tali.
"By the way, you do realize she will pester you until you have thought how to do that thing with the eyes?" he finished with a smirk.
"But I don't know how I did that!" the Asari protested.
"That just makes it more of a challenge. I almost pity you. That girl can be relentless," he replied with a grin. In his opinion that wasn't always a bad thing. Sure left him sore sometimes but it was always worth it. Hell, was it worth it. "Anyhow, you said you had an idea where Shepard is? Is she some kind of ghost?"
"No and that is part of the problem. Are you familiar with Pantheism?"
"Isn't that some Human religious concept? Like the Asari belief that every life in the Galaxy is connected?"
"Not exactly, no. Human religions are quite varied and even inside any given religion there are many different doctrines, sometimes even conflicting ones.
"One of the most prominent religions has a single God-figure in its centre, much like the Goddess Athame. Ancient belief pictured him as a white beard in the sky," she said with a smile. Her main interest might have been the Protheans but she was still a Xenosociologist and studying different alien cultures might help her main work. She had been startled to find that irrational belief back when she had first studied Human culture, shortly after the First Contact War. How could hair, wonderful as it was touching it, be a god?
She knew better now, having asked Shepard about it one time. The beard image was mostly comic in nature, something that told her much about Humans. In contrast, even after they had abandoned their ancient belief the Asari never ridiculed the Goddess.
"Pantheism was a reaction to the discovery that planet Earth might not the centre of the universe. It states that God is in everything, is part of everything."
"So you belief Shepard is this Human god? I think that's a bit crazy. Even for us."
"No! Nothing like that," Liara was quick to amend. "I just think Lea is somewhere in us all, in every living thing in the galaxy. She is part of what changed us."
"Ah, so just the galaxy, not the universe." Garrus nodded, ignoring Liara's protestations for a moment. "Relax. I'm joking. I think I understand. So you belief somehow Shepard got spread out across the galaxy during... whatever that Green Wave-thing was and is now... where?"
Liara huffed at being made fun of again. "That is the problem. From what I can tell during our meld, she is not in one single point and neither is she truly spread out. She is more apart and yet a part of everything. It is frustrating trying to make sense of it!" she threw her hands up in exasperation. "When she showed me where she was back in Illium, it was like looking at the map of the galaxy on the Normandy. But at the same time I felt I could see everything that went on inside it down to the lowliest bacteria. I swam through a sea of millions of faces but was never part of the sea.
"Yet here on Elatania, when I melded with the planet's ecosystem, Lea was there as well. I didn't realize it at first because it was so vast but she was there, everywhere. I almost lost myself in the meld. Then she pulled herself together just enough to make me remember who I was and what I was trying to do."
Again they fell silent, Liara brooding over the situation, Garrus trying to absorb the new information.
"Well, seems to me we have to go to the Citadel," Garrus said at last.
"Whatever for? We are not going to find her there!" Liara answered, clearly still frustrated.
"No, but it's a good idea to start at the beginning," he tried to placate his friend. "Maybe we find out how all of this started. Besides someone is trying to hide something there. I don't belief in coincidences. There's a connection somewhere. Has to be."
"Goddess, how can I be so dense! Of course it has to be!"
Garrus only chuckled at this. "Relax Liara. Shepard once said to me, you sometimes can't see the wood for the trees."
Confusion spread over the Asari's face. "What have plants to do with our situation?"