A/N: Hi guys. Thank you all for reading my fics! You're all super awesome. My apologies for missing a couple weeks here and there – university, plus running a newspaper, plus a musical theatre production, plus wedding planning make life a bit busy (and also explains the shortness of the chapters). If I ever miss a week, please cut me some slack and trust that the next chapter will be up soon – the summary does say "in theory, updates Mondays". Much love for all of you who read (and those who review): it makes my day to know that people enjoy my work. I love writing this stuff and it makes me incredibly glad that people like reading it!
Without further ado …
Liara was staring blankly at her monitors when the intercom chimed.
"Liara?" It was Shepard.
"Yes, Shepard? Can I help you with something?"
"I was just wondering if you wanted a cup of tea."
"Ah – yes, that would be lovely, thank you." She wasn't getting any work done anyway. "When—"
The door to her quarters slid open, revealing a somewhat sheepish-looking Shepard holding two mugs.
"Oh. Hello, Commander."
"Hi, Liara. Can I come in?"
"Yes, of course." Shepard stepped forward and the doors slid shut behind her. The Commander held out a mug, which Liara took.
Shepard leaned back against the wall beside her door, looking alternately between the floor, her mug, and Liara's wall of monitors. Liara gave her a minute, waiting to see if she would speak, but eventually accepted that Shepard wasn't about to say anything at all, so she did first.
"Was there something you wanted to talk to me about, Shepard?"
The Commander shifted her weight from one foot to the other. "Yeah. I figured we should probably talk about … us. And … you know." She shook her head and muttered something under her breath.
"I didn't quite catch that, Shepard."
Shepard looked up, embarrassed. "I was just cursing myself out for being so damn awkward."
Liara smiled. "I know that feeling."
Shepard smiled back. "It's odd, you know? I can talk down a homicidal maniac, convince politicians to give me their fleets, but I can't talk about kids."
Liara nodded. "I understand. It is not an easy subject. How are you feeling?"
Shepard swirled her tea in her mug. "I don't really know. I mean, I didn't have a family for the first few years of my life. I ran with a gang; I ran drugs. And then I got picked up by the Alliance, and got adopted instead of thrown in the clink … forgot my old name and took a new one … and then joined up when I was old enough. I … family was different. Family was special. I never even thought about having kids. Life didn't work with kids. Kids … kids die."
Liara took a gulp of her tea. This was getting dark awfully fast. She of course knew Shepard's service and pre-service history, but stories were always harder coming from the mouth of someone you knew …
Shepard shook her head and waved her hand dismissively. "Sorry. Maybe a bit much. Just … I never thought kids could happen. I didn't want kids. I didn't even think I'd ever meet someone I could trust. Ah, fuck." She rubbed her forehead. "I'm sorry, Liara. I don't need to dump all this on you."
Liara exhaled slowly. "Shepard, it's alright. I am your friend, and I am happy to talk with you if you wish. This is … a difficult subject, and I understand."
The human woman pinched the bridge of her nose. "Yeah, I know, but this seems like the sort of stuff I'd talk with Thane about, or maybe with Mom. But Thane's … gone, and my mom's half a galaxy away … and who wants to hear about their daughter's love life?"
Liara smiled. "I'm sure Hannah would love to talk, if you wanted to."
Shepard nodded. "Yeah, probably, I suppose. But … oh hell, Liara, I just don't know what to say to you. I mean, I only just talked about this with Garrus. I get him, I trust him, and … for the first time in my life I want to be a mother. And I don't understand it. And you're offering to carry a child for us, and … don't get me wrong … it's floored me. I can barely wrap my brain around carrying a child myself, and you're giving us the chance to have a child of our own … that … oh Liara." She slipped down the wall and put her mug against her forehead.
Liara was quiet for a moment, then sat down across from Shepard, crossing her legs.
"Shepard. Can I tell you something?"
Shepard lowered her mug slightly and peeked out at the asari. " … Yeah."
Liara took a deep breath, then exhaled. "Alright. I am going to be entirely truthful with you, Shepard. I did not foresee that you would be pained about this to this degree, and I think my actions have been unhelpful in this. Please hear me out, and trust me." She smiled. "I am your friend, and that will never change."
Shepard nodded, remaining behind her mug.
"Shepard. My friend." Another deep breath. "I realized I loved you years ago, on the original Normandy. I was—am—young, and you were strong, mature, kind, caring, funny. You didn't treat me as second-class, and you considered my opinions just as carefully as anyone else's. Honestly, I wasn't sure why everyone wasn't head-over-heels in love with you." She smiled. "Though I suspect more people are than we may ever know."
Shepard said nothing, just watching the asari through the steam from her tea.
"As we worked together, I grew to respect you, and even to some degree understand you. This only increased my love for you. I was disappointed, but not angry, when you told me that you would prefer our relationship to remain that of friends. I threw myself into my work. You were still my friend, and I respected you entirely. I could not be angry with you. But it still hurt."
Shepard's eyes hit the floor.
"When you … died, it was like a fire had been lit inside me. I had to do something. I worked without fail and waited with impatience to hear of the Lazarus Project's success. I was overjoyed when I heard the first reports of your return filtering in through my network. When you turned up on my doorstep, it was like the sun coming up."
Shepard was silent. Liara paused and watched her friend.
"But, Shepard … while I still love you, I see and understand your love for Garrus. I have no desire to come between you and your soulmate. Our friendship has become so important to me over the years that I see you as my sister more than anything else: I would never be able to forgive myself if I did anything that hurt you or the one you love. Knowing that your love for Garrus cannot come to fruition in this most devoted, most sacred of ways … it hurts me far, far more than the pain of knowing that I am not to be your partner. So, Shepard: as your friend, I wish nothing more than to help you create life from the incredible love that you and Garrus share."
Shepard's eyes slowly rose again to meet her own.
"Yes, you presume correctly: it will hurt me to know that this child is of me but not of me; it will always hurt that I love you in ways you do not love me. But, Shepard – you are my friend. You have always been there for me; you love me, I suspect, in a very different way. And I in turn suspect that my love for you will slowly, over the years, transmute itself into an even deeper respect and friendship than I already have for you. And so I give myself to you to help you, not to harm you. To see you with a child would make me even happier than seeing you at my side."
Shepard remained silent.
"What about Feron?"
Liara smiled again. "I have decided to renew my friendship with him. I have a hunch that, with this extra experience of friendship and understanding, my relationship with Feron will take on very different aspects than my friendship with you."
Shepard returned to silence, and Liara returned to waiting.
"You're serious about all this, aren't you."
"Absolutely serious, Shepard."
"I think I need more tea. Or maybe a hug."
"I could do both if you liked."
Shepard set her empty mug on the floor beside her and scooted closer to Liara, who wrapped her arms around the human woman.
Shepard reciprocated the hug and laid her head on Liara's shoulder. "You're a pretty awesome friend, Liara, you know that, right?"
Liara smiled and chuckled softly. "I try, Shepard."
"You make me tea and everything."
"But you made me tea."
"But you're making more tea. And you're giving me a hug. The great Commander Shepard doesn't need hugs."
"I suspect the great Commander Shepard needs a hug more often than she knows."
"Mm. That's what I have Garrus for."
"True. But the great Commander Shepard also needs … what's the human expression? A girlfriend? I never understood human colloquialisms, they're always so sexually charged…"
The Commander laughed aloud. "Yeah. Yeah, I know. Fuck. Yeah, I guess the great Commander Shepard needs a girlfriend. Fucking hell. Don't let Joker get wind of that, he'll never shut up…"
Liara pulled away, holding Shepard at arm's length, hands on the other woman's shoulders. "More tea?"
"How about tea and a holovid? We can make it a girls' night."
"Do we have to have pillow fights? I read somewhere that human women do that …"
Shepard laughed again. "I guess we can if you want."
Liara stood, helping Shepard up. "I think a night of fun is in order. And all good nights of fun must begin with tea."
"Aye aye, girlfriend." The two women snickered, leaving Liara's quarters to start that second cup of tea.