Feeling like a huge weight is on her chest she shifts to see if she can move. Completely in darkness she cannot see anything except the slit of light under a door. Taking stock of any injuries she realizes her hands and feet are not bound which surprises her. What further surprises her is that her omni-tool is still on her arm. Turning it on makes her eyes water due to the bright light. Slowly moving into a sit she dials Shepard.
It has been two days since Arelia has disappeared. The Shepard/T'Soni household has become a sort of headquarters. Miranda is staying in a guest bedroom when she actually sleeps. Valya and Dara are also staying at the home. Dara is helping with Raina and with Liara when necessary as well as food preparation and errand running when necessary. Valya and Shepard are strategizing, trying to figure out where to look for Arelia, gathering everything they can find on Nala's background and trying to figure out where the asari would take her. Miranda and Liara are on data and watching video feeds. The last they saw of Nala and Arelia was from a shop video camera that is across the street from Arelia's favorite restaurant, the one Arelia was purposely visiting in order to draw out Nala. It showed Nala's arm around Arelia's waist, the two talking and walking away from the restaurant. They walk out of view soon after. No other footage of the pair has been found yet, but they keep searching.
Liara is still recovering though she is doing much better. She barely needs assistance to walk anymore. The mornings are the worst but Liara is managing. Shepard and Liara have had a few stolen moments together but nothing more than that. There is no time to further discuss Liara's fear of melding or her feelings of what happened to her and what happened to Shepard. But they do touch now. They hold or touch hands as they brush past each other, touch shoulders when in the same room which makes both of them smile. Liara still gets weak physically but does not tire as easily as she used to. She knows when she is reaching her limit. She has not stumbled or fallen since she and Shepard have reunited.
Liara's headache is still hanging on but it is less and less now. Just a faint pain which is made worse by doing exactly what she is doing, reading and looking at screens all day. When she has to take breaks it is because she can no longer tolerate the pain in her head and must close her eyes. Shepard has noticed that it is about every two hours that Liara has to take a break, so the human makes sure she does just that.
Miranda is hardly sleeping; she rarely leaves the secure room except to use the bathroom. Shepard had to physically remove her from the secure room and all but carry her upstairs to her guest bedroom before Miranda finally agreed to get some sleep where she remains right now. It has been about four hours since she finally fell asleep, Shepard suspects she will sleep for at least another four.
It is the middle of the night and Shepard is the only one awake at the moment. She is in the secure room looking through video footage. She realizes that she nodded off when her head snaps up at the beep beeping of her omni-tool.
"Kasumi? My God where are you, are you alright?" The thief's speech is slurred.
"Not sure. I can't see anything."
"Are you hurt Kasumi?" Shepard's heart is racing.
"Feel hung over, don't think so."
"How can I find you?"
Kasumi can focus on her omni-tool now her eyes have adjusted to the light of her omni-tool. She punches a button. "Check your tool."
Shepard checks her omni-tool. "I got it. You sit tight Kasumi, I'm coming."
Shepard leaves the secure room. She grabs a first aid kit and some bottles of water. She leaves a note on a data pad on the kitchen counter in case anyone wakes up.
Kasumi leaves the light of her omni-tool on to check the room she is in. She does not feel steady enough to actually stand, her head feels very heavy and it is hard to keep her eyes open. The only way out of the small room she is in is the door. There is nothing in the room and she does not remember how she got there.
The last thing she does remember is watching Nala the asari matron. The asari was all over the place. She circled back so many times Kasumi knew she must have been spotted. Kasumi knows she was drugged but does not remember how or how long she has been in the room she finds herself in. Her memories in fact seem mixed somehow. It is hard for her to concentrate which is why she does not remember where she was when she was drugged or what she was watching. Kasumi has never been caught tailing someone before but she is very disappointed in herself for letting Shepard down.
She does not know how much time as passed when she hears a knock at the door. She opens her eyes and realizes she must have fallen asleep.
"Kasumi?" she hears Shepard.
"Shepard in here," she says hoping Shepard can hear her.
"Stay back from the door. Are you safe?"
"Yes," says Kasumi.
The door is not like a door found on the Normandy that opens and closes within the wall it is on; this is a door with a door knob and hinges. Suddenly a loud boom is heard and Kasumi sees the door nearly come off its hinges flooding the room with light. Kasumi holds her arm up to shield her eyes from the brightness. She knows now she is in a room within a building and it is the lights in the building that she saw under the door.
Shepard stands in the doorway and quickly kneels in front of the thief running a scan. "You okay?" She finishes the scan and grabs a bottle of water out of her bag and hands it to Kasumi. "Drink it slow, you are dehydrated."
Kasumi cannot open it. She has no dexterity in her hands.
Shepard opens it and lifts the bottle to her lips. Kasumi tilts her head back as Shepard pours some water in her mouth. Shepard takes the bottle away to give Kasumi a chance to swallow.
"You okay Kasumi?"
The thief shakes her head, "I was drugged." She holds her hand out to take the water, Shepard gives her the bottle.
"Take it easy. Do you know how you got here?" asks Shepard.
She shakes her head no.
"Do you know how long you have been here?"
Again she shakes her head no. "Just woke up," she manages her voice is hoarse.
"Okay. We need to get you out of here. You ready?"
Kasumi looks at her. "Can't walk."
Shepard gives her a soft smile, "I got you Kasumi. You ready?"
Shepard lifts Kasumi using the fireman's carry where most of her body is over her shoulders. Shepard leaves the room and heads for the sky car.
Shepard carries Kasumi into the house. No one is awake which she is happy about. Shepard doesn't bother setting Kasumi down she brings her directly upstairs to the third guest bedroom. She thinks to herself how happy she is to have so many bedrooms upstairs. She gently lowers Kasumi onto the bed. The thief is near sleep again.
"You hungry Kasumi?"
"Not…now," she rasps.
Shepard moves to the other side of the bed to pull the sheet and blanket back. Shepard looks at Kasumi's tight knit outfit and wonders how the heck to take the thing off of the thief. "Be right back," she says as she leaves Kasumi on the bed.
Shepard returns with a clean t-shirt. "Kasumi?"
"You need to help me undress you, get into this shirt," says Shepard. Shepard helps her to sit up.
Kasumi barely opens her eyes, a smile forms on her face.
"What's with the grin?" asks Shepard.
Kasumi says nothing.
"Ah, I'm taken honey," she says sarcastically.
"Please Shep, you are not my type," Kasumi slurs.
"Oh, that hurts Kasumi," she smiles.
To Shepard's amazement Kasumi is able to guide her on how to remove her skin tight suit. Shepard places the shirt on her. Lifts her and moves her to the side of the bed where the sheet and blanket are turned down. She lowers the thief on the bed. Kasumi shifts under the covers to her side ready to sleep.
"Thanks," she manages to say.
"I'll let you sleep for awhile. I may wake you to make you eat something okay?"
Shepard hangs the thief's suit in the closest. She looks at it wondering briefly how it would look on her or even better on Liara. She shakes her head as she leaves Kasumi to sleep turning off the lights as she goes.
Shepard checks the secure room when she reaches the main floor to see if anyone woke up while she was upstairs. It is empty. Seeing that it is nearly 2:00 AM she decides to go to bed. She undresses in the dark there is enough light to see in the room once her eyes adjust. She hears Liara's deep breathing. She is happy her bondmate is sleeping soundly. Her nightmares are slowly fading. She doesn't have them every night anymore, more like two to three a week.
Shepard in her pajamas now slides under the covers. She tries to be quiet. Liara wakes.
"Shh sorry Liara. Go back to sleep," she says as she kisses Liara on the back of the neck.
Liara turns to face her. She grabs Shepard's hand. "What time is it?"
"Why are you up?"
Shepard strokes one of Liara's tentacles. "Kasumi is here. She called."
Liara nearly sits up, but Shepard stops her. "What?"
"She is sleeping Liara. We have to wait to talk to her. She was drugged."
"Oh Goddess. Is she alright?" asks Liara as she settles back down.
"Yeah. She is dehydrated. I gave her some water. Told her I would wake her in awhile to feed her. She is exhausted. I had a hell of a time with that damn suit of hers."
Liara looks at Shepard raising her eyebrows, "Excuse me?"
Shepard smiles and moves closer to Liara so their bodies are touching. "Yes Liara. I took her clothes off and I couldn't resist. I took advantage of her and had wild sex with her as she lay unconscious." Shepard tickles Liara as she finishes her sentence.
"Elly," Liara lightly slaps her arm, "the things you say."
Shepard leans in and kisses Liara. Liara deepens the kiss as she threads her fingers through Shepard's red hair. Shepard's hand moves to Liara's lower back igniting Liara's nerves. This makes the asari moan and move closer to Shepard. Shepard eases her hand under Liara's pajama top she slowly raises it brushing her fingertips up Liara's side.
Liara places her hand on Shepard's face. This has become a signal for Elly to stop. Liara is still scared. Scared to get too aroused because she will want to meld and she is too scared to meld. Shepard stops immediately and rests her forehead on Liara's grabbing her hands.
"Sorry Elly," gasps Liara still out of breath.
"No apologies Liara," says Shepard. "You okay?"
Liara feels the heat in her eyes.
"Hey," says Shepard as she cups Liara's cheek. She can see tears forming in her eyes. "Talk to me Liara."
Liara looks away ashamed. "I…"
"Hey. I am not going anywhere Liara. There is no need to rush anything. Being here like this with you, it's enough."
Liara looks at Elly, "It's not enough for me." She lowers her head again to hide her tears.
"Liara," Shepard says gently. "Can you talk to me?"
Liara composes herself as best she can. "She ruined my memories of us Elly."
Concern growing "What do you mean?"
"When she forced herself on me, her feelings. She is in such pain Elly. She is so angry. I couldn't stop her; I wasn't fast enough with my barriers. She saw things, intimate things. Now…" Liara stops.
Shepard wipes a tear away from her own cheek. "Now what Liara?" she whispers.
Liara can't look at her. "Now when I think of our first time together I feel anger. I have to force myself to remember what I felt and I…sometimes I just can't." Liara softly cries.
Shepard shifts close and hugs her. "It's okay Liara."
Liara shakes her head back and forth, she cannot speak her throat is too tight.
"It is Liara. We can make new memories and have new feelings. It's okay."
"It's not Elly don't you see that. She invaded my mind. My …I can't stop thinking about it."
Shepard rests her head inches from Liara's again looking into her eyes. She can still see how beautiful they are even in the darkness of the room. "You need to give yourself time Liara. Stop pushing yourself so hard."
Liara shakes her head again back and forth. "No. She has taken so much already. I don't ….I don't want to feel like this anymore," Liara wipes her tears away.
"Feel like what Liara, tell me?"
"Scared. I…I want to try," says Liara.
"Try what?" asks Shepard.
"Let me share a memory with you," says Liara.
"Liara you don't have to," she kisses her hands.
"Let me try Elly," Liara will not be swayed.
Shepard is concerned. Liara is tired and still suffers from headaches. "I don't want you overdoing it Liara. Is it safe for you to try right now? Maybe we should wait."
Liara smiles "Let me try, please Elly."
Shepard squeezes her hands, "If you are sure."
Liara kisses her hand. She breathes in and out. Her eyes go black.
Shepard can feel Liara's fear. She quickly bubbles up feelings of love, strength and courage.
Liara is showing her a memory she has seen before. It is a memory of her as a child digging in the grass looking for artifacts. The memory they spoke about during the reaper war. This memory always makes Shepard smile. She hopes Raina and her new daughter on the way are half as cute as Liara was as a child.
Shepard suddenly feels immense bitterness, anger and hurt. She sees Nala's face. Nala's smile sends shivers up Shepard's spine. Shepard feels Liara shaking and realizes how she herself is losing her hold on her own feelings. Shepard grounds herself within her mind and again pushes love and courage toward Liara. She focuses on the memory Liara was showing her. Shepard ignores the invading feelings left from Nala. She knows Liara feels her because she can feel reciprocating feelings from Liara. The memory is becoming clearer. The memory of Nala returns, but Shepard and Liara are prepared. Liara is able to push the memory aside quickly returning to the park on Armali where as a child she is digging in the grass. Shepard holds her tight and Liara can feel her. Her head starts to pound but she is able to maintain the memory without the lingering feelings from Nala. Liara moves to another memory feeling more and more confident.
Careful Liara do not over do it. Liara hears Shepard's thoughts. Shepard can feel Liara's head throbbing as if it is her own.
Liara shares one of her memories of Shepard and her visiting on the first Normandy. Shepard is asking about the asari as a people. She visited Liara often on the ship. This was maybe her third or fourth visit. Liara smiles and giggles because she loves this memory. When Liara brings up asari melding she couldn't help but notice how Shepard blushed and how inquisitive she was at the time.
No fair Liara. I didn't know. Shepard jokes in her thoughts.
Liara is thrilled that the memory is not skewed by a memory of Nala and no ill feelings are felt. Liara is smiling to herself and holds Shepard close. She slowly recedes from the meld. The pounding in her head is matching the beating of her heart. It was a very shallow meld but it is the first one they have shared since Nala's attack. When the meld is over Shepard sees Liara's tears. They are tears of joy, tears of relief. She kisses them off of her face.
"Thank you Elly," says Liara her heavy eyes closing.
"I love you Liara, you sleep now," she says.
"Love you," Liara manages as she nuzzles into Shepard's side, they both fall asleep with smiles on their faces.
Dara and Valya are the first up in the house. It is morning and the house is quiet. They both begin preparing breakfast for everyone.
"Valya talk to me," says Dara. She is concerned for her bondmate. She has a great deal of respect for Arelia and she hasn't been sleeping well.
Sighing heavily, "I'm fine Dara I just hate feeling this useless."
"I know, but we will find something soon I just know it."
Valya is the warrior in their relationship. She is all about action and taking charge. Valya sees a problem and she does what she can to fix it. Dara on the other hand is more in touch with the softer side of people. She is more of a thinker and a planner. She is methodical and does not like to rush into anything.
Valya smiles thinking of how different they are. "You know huh?"
Dara stop what she is doing and hugs Valya from behind. "I know you feel useless. What can I do to help you Valya?"
Valya sets down the knife she is using to cut tomatoes and turns to face Dara. "How is it that you stay so positive?"
Dara looks into Valya's blue grey eyes, "From what you have told me Arelia is a very good commando. She is resourceful and very, very smart. Just like you," she smiles. "And this Nala. Well. She will make a mistake Valya and we will find it and we will find them, you mark my words."
Valya kisses her fully on the lips holding Dara close. After breaking from the kiss Valya hugs her tightly. "I love you Dara."
"Hey what's brought this on?" Dara asks concerned.
"I …I just hope when she does make a mistake and we find them that it is still a rescue mission not a recovery mission. Nala is one of the best…" Valya stops talking.
The two asari step away from each other when they see Miranda enter the kitchen.
"Morning Miranda," says Dara as she checks the stove. They are making omelets for everyone. "Here you go," Dara hands Miranda a cup of coffee.
Miranda gives a half smile and blows on her coffee sitting down at the breakfast bar instead of the kitchen table. "Is there any news?"
Valya replies, "No not yet."
The two asari don't know Miranda very well, they are not sure what to say to try to console her.
"Morning all," says Shepard. She has a new spring to her step.
"Hi Shepard," says Dara glad to see her.
"Listen up," says Shepard. "Kasumi is upstairs sleeping."
"What? What the hell Shepard. Why didn't you wake me? What does she know? Where did she last see Nala?" insists Miranda.
Shepard knows how upset Miranda is so she tries not to sound defensive in her reply. "She called in the middle of the night. She was drugged and is sleeping it off right now. She was barely lucid. I thought it best that she and everyone get some rest."
"That is not up to you Shepard!" yells Miranda. She stands but Shepard catches her arm.
"Where are you going?" asks Shepard.
"To talk to Kasumi," Miranda tries to pull away from Shepard but is not successful.
"No Miranda. She needs to sleep if off."
"I can flush her system Shepard. We are losing precious time."
Shepard lets go of her arm. "Alright, let's go." She turns to Valya and Dara, "Thanks for making breakfast."
The two asari smile and nod as the two humans make their way upstairs.
"I cannot believe you didn't wake me," says Miranda as she follows Shepard upstairs.
"Save it Miranda. You needed rest."
"Fuck you Shepard."