- Firstly, a very big thank you to everyone who's had a hand in this fic, particularly jt-boi, who took on the unenviable task of beta-reading much of the piece, and the asari headcanon enthusiasts on tumblr (you know who you are). Another big thank you goes out to everyone on the kmeme who's been following this since the beginning and providing such wonderful (and useful!) feedback.
- Secondly, this work comes with the following content advisories:
- - - Non-con overtones and themes (because I don't think it's really possible to look at indoctrination in general and Benezia's situation in particular without at least touching on that)
- - - Violence, including domestic violence
- - - Depictions of mental illness, including aliens with something akin to PTSD
- Thirdly, this a kmeme fill, but one that rather took on a life of its own. The version on the meme is more advanced (I'm happy to provide links if you'd like to read ahead), but the version here is a bit more refined and has some differences.
Liara allowed herself a little more than a week, in the end. Two days to simply sleep, another three to heal, one to mourn and the rest to hover by Shepard's bedside, half an eye on the various medical monitors while she worked, trying to pull together what remained of her network and make some sense of the ruined galaxy. Not even two weeks, and even then it was more than she could afford to spare. Events were moving forward apace, faster than her ability to plan for them, and the few reports that had come in from the Republics were troubling, to say the least. By rights, she probably should have been aboard the first vessel bound for Thessia the moment she'd been capable of walking again.
Leaving now, though, meant that she wouldn't be there if- when Shepard woke up. But she needed to go, and go now. Liara had a duty to her people as well as to Shepard, and she'd do far more good organising things on her homeworld and lending what support she could to their friends than she could ever hope to whilst hovering over a hospital bed. Leaving was the right thing to do, no matter how traitorous it felt. Shepard would have to understand. She knew about duty. She'd know that Liara had hated to leave her.
But even with the teary, wordless farewell behind her, there were still one or two things that needed taking care of before she could set foot upon the world of her birth again. This was one of the last of them, and easily proving to be the most difficult. She'd hidden in the ship's small cabin in dread of it, silly and childish though it was, until now. She, who had defeated the Shadow Broker, had summoned Kalros, had charged down the crater towards the beam of light and certain death, afraid? It was ludicrous. But then again, she'd always been much better at taking action than dealing with other people.
"Gilsame? Why are we detouring to Gilsame?" Aethyta said, checking the navigation database on the small freighter Liara had not so much requested as demanded the Systems Alliance loan her. Being one of the now-legendary Normandy crew had to have a few benefits, she'd decided, to go along with what remained of her clout at the Broker. "Two days out of the way for a ball of radioactive ice pirates wouldn't bother with."
"We need to collect someone," Liara allowed, hearing the tension in her own voice.
Aethyta heard it too, and gave her a hard look.
"One of your 'agents'?"
Liara was not certain exactly how much Aethyta knew about her activities, only that it was more than she'd let on and certainly much more than she'd relayed to the other matriarchs. Beneath Aethyta's direct, temperamental manner sat a very sharp mind, and she'd certainly hinted, more than once, that she found it extremely unlikely that at Liara and the Shadow Broker had put aside their conflict in order to focus on the Reapers, no matter the 'official' story.
"No. They will- I..."
She wrung her hands nervously together as she looked at her father. Liara had quickly come to genuinely like her other parent, but didn't know her anywhere near well enough to judge how she'd react to her news, and she really needed to win her over for this. In the end, she decided to plumb for blunt honesty. Plainly-spoken as she was, Aethyta would have to appreciate that, at least.
"There is no easy way to say this," she said, ignoring the way her heart hammered in her ears, "so I'm just going to come out with it."
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, and only then did she dare meet her other parent's eyes.
"Mother is still alive."