"To find someplace very far away, where you could spend the rest of your life... in peace. And happiness."
"Are you done?"
The varren turned his head away from the tree he'd just inspected and Shepard raised her eyebrows expectantly, wrapping her arms tighter around her body as a cool night's breeze passed her. Cal turned back to his tree and continued his investigation, ignoring Shepard's sigh behind him altogether. While her varren was occupied with his favorite tree in their garden, Shepard scanned her surroundings, impatiently tapping the gun at her thigh. So far, she hadn't needed it, but Shepard was still a soldier, she couldn't just ignore her trained caution... Or so she'd told Miranda... She shrugged. In reality, she just liked to shoot stuff...
Her eyes fell on the golden Saren statue standing prominently in their garden and she grinned. Even though Miranda had taken care of the majority of their house's interior, Shepard hadn't been able to resist when Kasumi had informed her about her "finding" as soon as the master thief had returned from her second visit of Hock's (after the tragic death of its former owner still unoccupied) estate. The statue was now standing prominently in their garden, hopefully scaring off any trespassers (and holding a few extra weapons in its secret cache, just in case...).
Finally through with his nightly round, Cal turned around and, without even acknowledging her presence, plodded past Shepard and back into the house. Shepard sighed once more. "Thank you so much, dear Shepard, for getting up in the middle of the night and waiting for me in this cold breeze," she muttered as she turned and followed him.
Once inside, she activated the door control and turned to the varren standing next to her. "Anything new?" she asked while they waited for the door to close. Cal looked up at her with what could be called a quizzical look and Shepard shrugged her shoulders and turned back to the door to lock it, nowadays even more protective of her now extended household... She stepped in front of the window right next to the door and scanned the front yard one last time before she nodded, finally satisfied, and turned.
After a few steps, she'd reached the fake aquarium (yes, she was still infuriated that the Alliance had taken away her expensive fish collection!), covering almost the entirety of one of the living room's walls, and activated a hidden mechanism on the aquarium's frame. The glass with the holographic aquarium silently slid to the side and revealed her hidden weapon stash. Sighing in content at the sight in front of her, she carefully put her pistol back at its place before she closed it again.
She turned away from the wall and took a moment to let her eyes wander around the living room of their new house. Despite everything that had changed, Miranda's taste for expensive furniture hadn't... but Shepard didn't care. If it made her former XO feel more comfortable, Shepard was more than willing to pay for the overpriced couch or the antique (and imported!) wooden shelf holding books Shepard had never even heard of, let alone knew how to pronounce some of the words imprinted on their backs... A huge chair standing right next to the shelf invited to sit down and read - or in Shepard's case just sleep...
Speaking of... She turned and started climbing the stairs to the upper floor, Cal following her quietly.
The hallway's carpet dimmed her footsteps as she passed the bathroom, stopping only momentairly to peek into their bedroom. The room was, as expected, dark and empty, except for Niftu sleeping in his swinging hammock. The pyjak had obviously once more gotten bored by the activities taking place next door (probably insulted that he wasn't the center of attention anymore) and had retreated to his place...
She smiled as she made her way further down the hallway to the last remaining room to her left. The door was ajar and Shepard carefully opened it and slipped into the room.
Miranda smiled as she watched the soft blanket rise and fall while she listened to the even, relaxing breathing underneath. Her smile widened as she felt Shepard's (admittedly pretty cold) arms snake around her from behind.
"Is she asleep?" she whispered and Miranda nodded. They both looked down at the small figure in the cradle in front of them. A couple of minutes passed in silence as they both watched the newborn sleep before Miranda turned and rubbed Shepard's back.
"She just fell asleep right before you came in." They both turned towards the door and left the room, leaving the door ajar so that they could hear their daughter if she woke up in the middle of the night. "Her eyes are beautiful..."
Shepard nodded, proudly. "Yup, she's definitely got my steely blue eyes," she announced.
Miranda turned her head and her eyebrow rose as she snorted. "You mean she's got my deep blue eyes..."
Shepard shook her head. "Nope, I'm pretty sure they're light..." She grinned and before Miranda could protest, she added, "I'm excited to see what color her hair will turn out to be... I think I saw some red shining through this morning..."
Miranda sighed. "It's dark, Shepard."
"No, dark..." An annoyed sigh. Why was she even arguing about this? "Black!"
They both stirred as they heard a soft whimper coming from next door. Taking a deep breath, Shepard leaned over and kissed Miranda's shoulder before she got out of the bed and left their room without a word.
Miranda sighed as she turned on her back, running a hand through her hair. A smile spread across her face at the sound of Shepard's soft, dimmed voice. "Hey... shhhh, it's okay, come here..."
The whimper immediately stopped (like it always did – who knew the feared Commander Shepard, Butcher of Torfan, had the talent to soothe babies?) and Miranda could hear Shepard's soft footsteps outside as the former commander carried their daughter downstairs. "You need your sleep, sweetheart. You've got a big day coming soon..."
Stretching once, Miranda yawned before she relaxed back into the soft pillows on the bed. She turned her head towards the door and heard Shepard whisper to Emily downstairs. Emily... Miranda's smile widened as she thought about the lively baby, eager to absorb everything that happened around her with curious (deep blue!) eyes...
They had decided to name their daughter in memory of Emily Wong. And although Miranda had never met the woman herself, the fact that Shepard's eyes had gleamed with deep respect while she'd told her about the reporter's sacrifice in the Reaper war had been enough to convince her... Miranda still didn't think the incident would be a good story for a child, but they could work out some of the details before telling their daughter about the person she'd been named after... She sighed inwardly. It wasn't entirely improbable that Shepard had already a couple of shirts or bumper stickers (which she'd aquired a certain liking for recently) with Emily Wong's last words on them stashed away somewhere in their house... She'd have to check that one day...
Miranda yawned once more before she left the bed and walked down the stairs outside their bedroom and into the living room, spotting Shepard on their couch.
"...and then mommy took out an entire group of approaching Blood Pack mercs while I took care of uncle Garrus," Shepard whispered, the baby in her arms sleepily closing its eyes again. She heard a sound behind her and seconds later, two arms snaked down on either side of her. She leaned her head back to capture Miranda's lips before her former XO circled the couch and sat down next to her, leaning on Shepard's shoulder.
"You know, I think you should still work on your bedtime stories before she's old enough to understand them..."
Shepard smiled and swung her free arm around Miranda and together they watched the baby sleeping peacefully between them. That was, until Shepard's omni-tool started blinking close to Miranda's eyes – almost blinding her. Looking at their daughter still sleeping peacefully in Shepard's arm, Miranda swallowed her curse and instead took Emily out of her arm as Shepard got up and started tapping at her omni-tool.
"What is it?"
Shepard's head rose momentarily but she quickly shook her head and turned away, making sure Miranda couldn't read the message on her omni-tool. "Nothing..."
"You're going on another mission?" The hand in which Miranda was holding the bottle with milk for Emily lowered slowly while her eyes remained on Shepard who was leaning against their kitchen's doorframe, the packed bag holding her armor and a small selection of her most trusted guns already in her right hand.
The former commander's free hand automatically reached for her neck. "Well, technically, it's not a mission..." she started, evading Miranda's eyes. "I'm just helping Garrus get even with an old friend of his..."
Emily started moving in Miranda's arms and she immediately raised the bottle again, her daughter's hands closing around it to prevent her mother from taking it away once more. Miranda sighed and shook her head. "How many grudges does that turian hold?"
Shepard shrugged. "I'm sure it can't be that many more... We've certainly shortened that list over the years..."
That answer didn't satisfy Miranda in the slightest and she decided it was time to test one of her newest weapons... She slightly shifted in her chair to make sure Shepard had a good look at their daughter in her arms before she started, "We have a child now, you can't just leave! What if anything happens to you?"
Shepard sighed. She'd wondered how long it would take for Miranda to bring that up... But she was prepared. She had her own weapons... quite literally... Overly theatrical, she turned her head and slowly reached into her bag... but Miranda stopped her before she could show her the new modifications she'd added to her Scorpion...
"Okay," Miranda rolled her eyes. "Maybe you won't get killed on this mission, but still... You can't just leave me here."
"Ah." Shepard raised her hand, smiling widely. "Just wait until you see who I've asked to come over to keep you company..."
Miranda's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Who?"
Shepard waved her off. "Don't worry... Should be here any minute..."
A minute passed... then another... and another...
Miranda leaned back in her chair, placing the empty bottle on the table as she lifted Emily to the towel she'd already draped over her shoulder, her eyes never leaving Shepard, who'd started to shift her weight uncomfortably while shooting nervous glances at the still silent door.
"Shouldn't be much longer," Shepard reassured her while Miranda softly patted Emily's back.
Shepard's brows furrowed. "Huh, normally our guests are right on time," she mused, shooting another apologetic smile at Miranda.
Finally, accompanied by a burp, the doorbell (once again, Shepard's idea...) rang and the former commander spun on her heels and sprinted towards the door. "Oh thank god!"
Emily smiled at Miranda and the dimple in her cheeks resembling Shepard's caused a slight smile to spread across Miranda's own face. God, she should never have agreed to having a small version of Shepard running (or rather crawling or being carried) around the house... It wasn't exactly helping...
They both turned their heads towards the door when they heard footsteps and Miranda's eyes widened as she recognized their visitor.
Shepard appeared behind Oriana. "Thought I bring her here before she gets kidnapped again..."
"Har har..." Oriana rolled her eyes. "Don't you have places to be? People to kill?"
Ignoring the younger Lawson's annoyed tone and with her confident smile back in place, Shepard turned to Miranda. "So?"
Miranda pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes as convincingly as possible, despite the baby wiggling happily in her arms at the sight of her aunt.
Shepard's smile widened. "Ah, come on. I know how much you love your sister... You'd never kick her out..." Quieter, she added, "And that way you won't stay mad for long... at least not until I get back..."
Oriana, who was still standing close to Shepard, thus having heard what the former commander had muttered, shook her head. "You shouldn't use me as a weapon against my own sister," she state while still smilingly approaching Emily. The baby squealed with delight and reached out with her arms.
"She started it! She used our baby as a way to make me feel bad about leaving them!"
"Miranda..." Oriana shook her head in feigned disbelief as she lifted the baby out of her sister's arms.
"Wha-?" Miranda's mouth hang open. So now it was her fault? How dare they teaming up...
"Please..." Shepard approached her slowly, a pleading look on her face while she evaded Oriana and Emily on her way to Miranda's chair. "I just need to shoot something..."
"Ugh..." Miranda rolled her eyes. Shepard had reached her in the meantime and Miranda couldn't bare the look on her face any longer. It was true... Ever since the end of the Reaper war, Shepard hadn't shot anything (or anyone)... Well, maybe except for Al-Jilani's camera bots, but they didn't really count... In fact, the former commander had quickly adapted to their domestic life and hadn't complained once... Maybe it would help prevent her from hitting the roof in pent up frustration in the near future... and it certainly wasn't a bad idea to being owed a few favors... Miranda sighed and waved her hand dismissively. "Fine... Go."
Shepard's face lit up and she leaned in for a heated kiss which Miranda returned until they heard Oriana clear her throat behind them. "We have children here..." The younger Lawson sister rolled her eyes and turned away, covering Emily's eyes with her hand. "God, get a room, you two!"
Shepard pulled back and winked at Miranda once before she turned and placed a hand on Oriana's shoulder while leaning in to kiss Emily on the forehead. "I entrust you with the two most important things in my life," she stated sternly as she faced Oriana, who just rolled her eyes.
"Yeah, yeah... Now get out of here before you add a poem or start singing a cheesy lovesong..."
Shepard contemplated those two options for a second before she nodded, grabbed her bag and left the house without another word (or song).
"Well then..." Oriana turned to her sister, her eyes sparkling. "We've got an entire day just for ourselves!" she exclaimed, smiling at both Emily and Miranda. "I've brought a couple of the corniest vids you can imagine and we'll watch at least two of them while we eat ice cream and talk about boys, or in your case..." She raised a suggestive eyebrow. "Shepard..."
Oriana wasn't even surprised when Miranda immediately shook her head. "I won't tell you anything about my relationship with her that you don't already know!" she stated.
"Oh, come on..." Oriana pleaded as she left the kitchen, only to return seconds later, holding a bag in her free hand. Emily turned in her other arm to inspect the bag with curious eyes. "Just some tiny little cheesy things...?" she offered but Miranda shook her head once more.
"Not gonna happen." But seeing Oriana's pleading eyes, she sighed and added, "But we can talk about boys, if you want... And..." She grimaced. "Watch some of those corny vids... I must warn you, though: we don't have ice cream."
Oriana waved her hand dismissively. "Ah, don't worry. Shepard already warned me that you only allow healthy food in the fridge... That's why I came prepared..." She placed the bag on the table in front of Miranda and started rummaging through it. "Ice cream, candy bars... oooh, I don't even remember packing those cookies..." She raised her head. "Those tiny cooling boxes are just priceless," she announced while placing an ice cream box in front of her sister's skeptical eyes.
Miranda groaned. This was going to be a long day...
A/N: So there you have it... This chapter is pretty similar to the first chapter from the first story arc, it's set in the present and hints at all the stuff that has changed while the following chapters will tell what happened in the meantime. I hope that makes sense... :) Not much else to say, really... Off to the next chapter...
Oh yeah, does anyone remember Niftu Cal, the biotic god? I think the names are kinda fitting for their pets... Cal the nice varren and Niftu the bitchy pyjak... But maybe that's just me... :)