A/N: After thinking about it some more, I guess Aethyta deserves a "thank you", don't you think?
"...so, naturally, you'd think they actually feel like jelly, but, oh boy, trust me, they don't." Aethyta gave a short laugh as she poured herself another drink. "Don't even know who started that rumor in the first place..." she mused as she watched the liquid fill the glass until it almost spilled over its edge. She placed the bottle back under the bar and shrugged. "Oh well..."
Half of the glass' content was already gone when she placed it back down after a single, large gulp. She leaned on the counter of the bar and continued, "Only downside I see is that they glow in the dark... It's almost impossible to sleep next to one... It's like sleeping next to a neon sign. Plus their color changes depending on the dreams they're having. And trust me: You do not want to wake up in the middle of the night to a pulsing purple..." She took another large gulp and slammed the now empty glass on the table. "Heh, bet no one's ever told you that before..."
Startled by the sound of the glass hitting the bar, a woman standing in front of the vending machine next to the café turned her head, blinking in surprise. "Are you talking to me?"
The matriarch gave a short laugh. "Yeah. Or do you see anyone else- There she is!" Aethyta exclaimed and spread her arms in a welcoming gesture as she noticed Liara approaching the café for the second time that day, the confused woman at the vending machine already forgotten... "Back from your little... nap, I take it..." She winked at her daughter. "You look well rested..."
And there was that purple blush on her daughter's cheeks again... Aethyta chuckled. Too easy...
"Want something to drink?"
Liara's eyebrow rose. "It is the middle of the day. Are you sure you should be drinking already? And while you're working, at that?" She followed the already refilled glass on its way to the matriarch's lips and back down on the table, emptied.
"Hm?" Aethyta followed Liara's line of sight and shrugged as her eyes fell on the empty glass on the bar. "Eh, who cares? 'Try before you buy', as humans say. How am I supposed to sell liquor to customers if I don't even know how it tastes? But that's beside the point right now..." She nodded towards her daughter, an amused smile on her face. "You seem to have had a little fun yourself..." She pointed at Liara's labcoat. "One of your buckles is still unclasped..."
Liara's eyes narrowed defensively. "It is not!"
Still, Aethyta noted with delight that the younger asari shot a quick glance down her outfit, straightening it matriarch placed a calming hand on Liara's and smiled. "Don't worry, I'm just messing with you, kid..." She shrugged her shoulders. "Well, since you didn't come back here for the drinks and I assume you don't want to hear anything more about your mother's qualities or your krogan genes...?" She raised an expectant eyebrow and her amused smile was back in place when she saw her daughter shake her head vehemently.
The matriarch shrugged indifferently. It was worth a try... "So, what brings you here then? Missed my company already?"
"I..." Liara lowered her gaze and nervously straightened her outfit once more. "I think I should thank you... for..."
The amused smile on Aethyta's face widened. "Thank me for what? My perfect genes? The strong biotics? The good looks you inherited?" she teased with a wink.
Liara sighed and brushed a hand over her forehead. This might take a while...
"Could I still get that offered drink now?"
"I made her promise to let you go your own way, though. No matter what she wanted," Aethyta declared with a slight slur in her voice.
The Citadel's artificial light had been dimmed during their talk and most patrons and visitors of the Commons had already retreated to their apartments by now, leaving them almost alone on the plaza.
"Really?" Liara's eyebrow rose and she placed the empty glass on the table, shaking her head no as her father set to refill it for the tenth time – and rolling her eyes as the matriarch did so regardless...
After refilling her own glass and downing its content, Aethyta nodded eagerly, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand before she leaned forward on the bar, placing a steadying hand on it for support.
"I knew you'd be special, kid," she stated and sighed, looking away in thought before she continued. "Any daughter of hers."
A smile spread across the matriarch's face at a sudden memory that moment. "I told her: 'You're treating her like a baby bird, Nezzie. She's gonna raise one hell of a storm with those little wings...'"
Liara's hand holding the glass stopped midway. "Little wing?"
Aethyta raised her head, giving her daughter a concerned look. "You okay?"
"Yes..." Liara nodded, quickly taking another sip from her glass to hide her attempt to blink away some of the tears forming in the corners of her eyes. "Thanks."
Aethyta grabbed Liara's free hand and squeezed it lightly, smiling at her daughter while she waited for Liara's obvious inner turmoil to wane.
A sudden thought made Liara raise her head once more. "So... you knew me?" she asked carefully.
Aethyta's eyebrow rose. "'Course I knew you!" she exclaimed, a little louder than intended. She gently squeezed her daughter's hand. "I made Nezzie send me a holo from each of your birthdays! I even visited you once when you were still a baby, but you probably won't remember that..."
"What are you doing here?" Benezia's wide eyes looked at the figure standing in front of her door with a mixture of shock and surprise.
"I want to see her, Nezzie." Aethyta nodded to the cradle standing prominently in the middle of the room behind Benezia. "Just once. You can't deny me that!" she stated in a tone that offered no room for argument.
"How did you even find us?"
Aethyta gave a short, humorless laugh. "You think you're the only one with resources?" Her eyes narrowed in thought. "Cost me a fortune, though... I guess that means I'll have to stay sober for the next couple of months to be able to still afford my rent..." She raised her head and locked eyes with Benezia again. "So...? You can't just send me away again, you know. I might start a scene... Bet the other matriarchs wouldn't like that..."
Benezia shot a glance over her shoulder before she turned back to her visitor and shook her head, biting her lower lip in guilt at her next words. "I don't think that's a good idea..."
"Oh come on, Nezzie!" the other matriarch pleaded. "She's too young to remember me and even if she does... tell her I'm... tell her whatever you like, but I want to see her! Goddess, I even bought her a plush hanar. A plush hanar! Do you know how ridiculous I felt buying a plush version of an alien I've slept with?"
Benezia rolled her eyes and sighed. Not that story again...
Realizing that Benezia was still hesitant (and to emphasize her words), Aethyta held up the toy she'd bought as proof, wiggling it in front of the other matriach's face.
The pained expression on Aethyta's face and her slight shudder at the memory of her visit to the toy store seemed to finally calm Benezia and a shy smile started tugging at her lips as she took a step aside and nodded. "Fine. But no swearing around her," she warned.
"Eh, she's gotta learn how to defend herself in this dark and cruel galaxy sooner or later. Some words might help her prove her point in future arguments..." Aethyta winked at her as she entered the apartment and slowly, almost carefully, approached the cradle.
Benezia rolled her eyes once more but just closed the door to the apartment without another word and turned around to see Aethyta standing frozen in front of the cradle, the plush hanar still in her hands.
"Is something wrong?" Benezia approached the frozen asari. "You can just give her the toy, she's already awake. You don't have to worry about-" She stopped as she noticed Aethyta's expression.
Aethyta took a few deep breaths while her grip on the plush hanar in her hands tightened until Benezia feared she might rip the toy apart – a sight she'd like to spare her daughter at such a young age... The baby asari in the cradle had meanwhile stopped squirming and was now staring at the asari as curiously as she was being eyed by Aethyta.
"I..." Aethyta started but was lost for words once more and simply shook her head.
Benezia took a step forward and placed a comforting hand on the other matriarch's shoulder, thus breaking her out of her numbness. She hastily shoved the plush hanar towards her daughter and immediately retreated as Liara tried to grab her hand. The baby asari's forehead creased in confusion but she closed her arms around the toy instead, almost vanishing behind it.
"She's beautiful," Aethyta whispered, still in awe.
"Yes, she is." Benezia nodded and smiled as Aethyta finally raised her head and faced her.
The two asari looked at each other for a long second before Aethyta took a deep breath and shot forward, pinning Benezia against the nearest wall with two quick steps and-
Liara cleared her throat and Aethyta blinked in confusion, facing her daughter again. Noticing Liara's disapproving look, she smiled and nodded. "Oh, right, no details. Sorry, kid..."
Liara rolled her eyes but still couldn't hide her smile. She sighed happily. "All this time I thought you might have been... embarassed by the union... That you were too ashamed to publicly acknowledge me as your offspring..."
"What?" Aethyta's eyes widened. "That's ridiculous!" She turned away from Liara, shouting, "Hey, everyone! This breathtakingly beautiful, absolutely astonishing, strong-willed and talented asari right here is my daughter and I am the proudest father in the whole galaxy!"
"Silence! There are people here that need their slee-"
A biotic push hit the turian who'd leaned out of his apartment's window to complain straight in the face and sent him flying backwards, a loud thump indicating his – surely painful – halt only seconds later, followed by a muffled "Ow".
Liara's head whipped around. "Dad!"
"What?" Aethyta raised both hands in a defensive gesture. "He deserved it! That guy's been nagging me all week, I'm telling you. He had it coming..."
Liara shook her head. "Was that really necessary?"
The matriarch grinned and shrugged her shoulders. "Probably not... Felt good though..."
A man who'd been cleaning glasses at the far side of the café for what seemed like the last couple of hours now stepped behind the matriarch and tapped her on the shoulder, clearing his throat. Aethyta turned her head lazily and the man nodded at the – aside from Liara – empty bar.
"I think I'll close the café for today. It might be a good idea for you to get out of here before C-Sec shows up anyway..."
The matriarch contemplated that thought for a second before she nodded and tossed the towel she'd cleaned the bar with every five minutes the entire evening behind her before she circled the bar. "Right. See you tomorrow then."
The human nodded and turned around to grab the towel from the ground and fold it neatly. Liara activated her omni-tool but Aethyta shook her head and grabbed her daughter's arm, pulling her with her and away from the café. Liara shot another glance over her shoulder before she turned to her father.
"He is not going to charge you for the liquor we consumed?"
Aethyta waved her off. "Nah. Just had to show him my glowing hands once and since then, everything's on the house." The matriarch chuckled and, as she noticed her daughter's suspicious glare, wrapped an arm around the younger asari's waist. "Don't worry about it, kid. And before you turn into your mother and tell me how wrong it is to use my biotics for selfish reasons... let's talk about something more interesting..."
"Like your human lover, for example..."
"I do not have a... 'human lover', Dad."
"Oh, don't give me that! I've seen the way you look at each other. Surprised your panties haven't caught fire..."
Liara groaned. "Dad..."
Aethyta gave a short laugh at her daughter's reaction. They started climbing the stairs leading away from the plaza and Aethyta turned her head, winking at Liara. "So... that Shepard's quite the catch... Bit too smart-mouthed for me, but... well... I guess she's all right... She cares about you, you know that?"
The matriarch cleared her throat as she slightly leaned backwards, hoping her words would distract her daughter long enough so she wouldn't notice her carefully patting at Liara's labcoat.
Liara sighed. "If you're looking for the bug you planted on me earlier, Shepard destroyed it..." she stated matter-of-factly.
Aethyta stopped. "She did what?" she exclaimed. "Do you know how expensive that bug was?"
"2,185 credits, yes. And it serves you right!"
The matriarch sighed. "Well, I hope she at least destroyed it by accident while pinning you against a wall or something like that..." She glanced at her daughter and gave a short laugh as she watched Liara's facial expression change. "You're too easy to read, kid."
Liara bit her lower lip and cleared her throat as she nodded towards the stairs to both sides of them, leading to apartments. "I think I should go back now and you're probably exhausted as well, so... You should go to your apartment. Good night, Dad."
"And let you walk back to your ship alone?" Aethyta shook her head. "Absolutely not! I'll walk you there," she announced, tightening her grip on Liara and pulling her towards the elevator. "It's a dangerous place here, especially for young and beautiful asari who still refuse to use the genetic traits given to them and headbutt people in self-defense..."
"You're still doing it on purpose..."
"Heh, yeah... maybe... But anyway, I don't think you're in any condition to walk by yourself, kid." She loosened her grip on her daughter's waist and as if her wobbly legs and spinning head – she really shouldn't have let her father talk her into drinking that last krogan liquor – hadn't already been proof enough, Liara felt herself swaying dangerously as she tried to take a few, staggering steps on her own.
Her father was at her side a second later and she wrapped her daughter back into her arms while Liara buried her face in her hands, groaning in frustration.
"You've ruined me!" the younger asari whined.
Aethyta gave a short laugh and waved her free hand dismissively. "Eh, you already had those genes in you, just needed someone to bring 'em out..."
Liara's eyebrow rose and she shot her father a quick sideglance. "If mother knew about your upbringing methods..."
Aethyta simply shrugged. "Somebody's gotta do it... Somebody's gotta raise you now, might as well be me."
"I don't need to be raised anymore, Dad. I am 109."
Aethyta chuckled as she activated the elevator controls they'd just reached. "We'll talk about that once you've learned to stomach a few drinks without almost collapsing on the bar..."
Looking down at her daughter when she didn't hear any protest, a warm smile spread across Aethyta's face. She pulled her arm tighter around the sleeping form of her daughter to support her while the elevator doors closed, taking them to the Docking Bay.
The rumbling of the elevator coming to a halt woke Liara up again and she blinked rapidly, trying to orient herself.
"Almost home," she heard a familiar voice whisper and nodded, leaning heavily on Aethyta while they walked towards the docked Normandy, where they were greeted by a waiting Shepard causally leaning against the wall near the airlock, smiling at them.
"I am not even going to ask..." Shepard stated with a raised eyebrow as she approached the two figures, taking Liara from her father and wrapping her arm around her just like the matriarch had done before. Liara sighed happily as she buried her face in Shepard's neck, inhaling the now already familiar scent.
Aethyta shrugged. "She's just tired, that's all."
"M-hm, sure..." Shepard was about to turn towards the airlock when Aethyta reached out once more, placing a soft hand on Liara's shoulder.
"Just take care of yourself out there. Okay, kid?" she whispered, her expression serious this time.
The younger asari nodded, smiling tiredly after shooting a quick, happy glance at the woman now holding her. "I will... Dad."