Shepard stalked into the house quietly. It had been a very late night at the office. Her boots were in one hand, her other hand resting on her pistol. Touching the pistol was completely unnecessary, but made Shepard more at ease while sneaking around and less likely to jump at something and shoot. They had a cat, once. Shepard had used to carry her shotgun, her trusty Krogan-made personally modified Claymore H65, on a special civilian-issued gun-clip-belt, everywhere. Liara by gradual degrees of very quiet and persistent influence had down-graded Shepard to just the heavy pistol.

It was pure, unconditional love (and the undeniable memories of combat together) that caused Liara to allow Shepard a gun in public at all. The need for fully-armed solders to trot the civilizations had lessened. Shepard had several benign, non-military political positions now, after all, and carrying heavy weapons was alarming at best. She did strictly volunteer work, involved in various panels and committees- possible the drollest thing Shepard could imagine doing with her time- but pretty much the most useful thing she could do now in the state of galactic peace, and in interest of her vow to retire.

She had resolved, from the moment she felt Liara's sobbing in bitter anguish and relief vibrate against her chest, that she would never make Liara wait for her to come back from the dead again.

At first the galaxy was in so much decrepit chaos that it was an easy vow to keep. The sentient races had fought for their lives. The spirit of the galaxy was fierce, ragged, and utterly broken in spirit. Shepard had been keenly aware of the pure symbol she had become, of the power she wielded as a hero who had survived. There was much for everyone to do, and Shepard was instrumental in her leadership. As the galaxy found peace, Shepard found herself experiencing the horrifying human emotion of purposelessness and boredom. She wasn't flexible like Liara. She had only a few special skills, and several of them had no place in the regular civilian-life. Shepard tried, and had with time (she thought) mostly succeeded. She sometimes wore civilian clothes. She bought groceries and made house repairs. She even would go to operas with Liara. She refused to go anywhere without a gun.

Considering how many things Shepard had done that she shouldn't have been able to, she was proud of her adaption into a "normal" life. Any man can struggle against adversity...how did that quote go? She couldn't remember. Fighting, even dying, had been easy. Learning to be something she wasn't had honestly been the hardest thing Shepard had ever done with her life. It was worth it, though, Shepard smiled a little to herself as she glanced towards Liara's office.

Shepard was surprised to see Liara not asleep at her desk, researching, but sprawled unceremoniously across their bed in a night-gown that failed to cover her, her belly protruding, making her spread legs look curiously detached. Shepard tried to undress quickly and quietly, join Liara on the little space left on the bed, but Liara's sense of her bondmate's presence was so keen that even in dead-sleep Liara stirred intelligently towards Shepard's body, and their bodies formed wordlessly to each other till they were as one. Even with the hard, swollen lump of Liara's stomach pressing hard against Shepard's own stomach, the comfort she felt as she gazed at her beautiful wife's sleeping face caused Shepard's blood to heat, fingertips and face tinglilng with warmth, trailing softly across the strange texture of the Asari's skin.

"Maybe" Shepard thought, and closed her eyes, reaching out mentally to see if Liara's mind was automatically trying to link to hers. There it was. She felt Liara's mind wandering in, much like the performance their bodies had just done. Shepard knew that many books had been written by the other species trying to describe what it was like melding with an Asari, but none Shepard knew of that described what it was like to meld with an Asari that was sleeping. Maybe she and Liara were the first. Shepard doubted it. Maybe she should take up learning how to write books, so she could write about it just the same. Shepard considered the high profile she still toted, and decided writing books at all were a bad idea. Or maybe she should write a biography. She would have to talk to Liara about it tomorrow and see what she thought. Shepard's thoughts were wandering all over. She was not even aware of when she started to dream.

Shepard ran up a hill to Liara, who was standing dreamily by a tree. "Hey Liara, I wanted to ask you about Asari child-birth, but I think I already did and anyways, it seems like you're not pregnant anymore." Liara smiled, her teeth shining and her eyes blue, "Oh, Shepard, honey, silly! I already had the baby!" Liara held up a little blue baby, that stared with gigantic, googily eyes that were the sparkling green. "She has my eyes! And my hair!" Shepard exclaimed. The baby's hair flowed in the wind. Suddenly Shepard realized the eyes were changing colors, that must have been why they were so sparkly. Liara noticed the eye-changing as well, and frowned, "Dear me! That's unusual! Shepard, I'm afraid this isn't your baby!" Shepard stared in disbelief, heart-broken. Liara was holding a little kitten. "Oh well, better luck next time, my love." Liara handed Shepard the kitten. Shepard instinctively felt the kitten was too fragile to hold. Sure enough, the kitten turned into a little skeleton that started snapping and crumbling in Shepard's hands. "YOU WERE WRONG, COMMANDER SHEPARD. THERE WAS NEVER MEANT TO BE LIFE. YOU HAVE BROKEN THE BALANCE." Shepard looked up to see Sovereign, hovering, his great, red eye setting Shepard's skin aglow with watching. Liara split into two wavery pieces that evaporated as Sovereign's beam hit her, then Shepard. Shepard coughed and tried to get up from the ground, but her arms were shaking too much. They were glazed in rivulets of her blood. Liara appeared to her side, outside her vision, her eyes black, watching Shepard. "You broke my heart, Shepard. Now you have broken my body." Shepard stood by the tree and saw the valley she had climbed from had turned to ash. No, wait, this was...the grove of trees from her dreams! The child who had haunted her so much was standing there, accusingly, and unmistakably the face of a young Lt. Alenko. The child-Kaiden opened his palm to reveal a tiny, blue baby, whose crying grew louder and louder. The sound drew into a sword that sliced Shepard's skull.

Shepard woke up.

That had been a stupid dream. She knew she should feel terrified from the dream, yet some parts had been too confusing and ridiculous. A somewhat ragged sigh escaped her. Nightmares were so old for her. She no longer felt the fear linger. It just absorbed into her bones. Good thing her bones were mostly inorganic armor now.

There was no way she was going back to sleep. What the hell. Shepard got up, poured herself a small glass of whiskey and gulped it while leaning against their most scenic window, staring into the night and city lights. Shepard tried in her mind to untangle the meaning of the dream.

When they retrieved Shepard's body from the wreckage on Earth, it had been a lot more than broken bones and ruptured organs that took time to heal. It was more than lost blood. Shepard knew. She had spoken with the Reapers, with their souls. She had made a decision that only gods should make, not that Shepard had ever believed the Reapers to be gods. In her mind, she understood how they brought balance, she felt the balance, however horrifying, was right. In her heart, in the end, she could not bear her dying thought being of cutting short the lives she had given everything to protect. She thought of Liara; she could not end that life. Shepard truly believed her choice had been an act of selfishness, that their children's children would pay dearly for.

Shepard had been both elated and terrified when Liara announced she was with their child. She had wanted it so badly for so long, it was a natural urge that swelled from her connection to Liara. At the same time, she distinctly remembered thinking that a monster like her could not possibly rear a child without tainting it by her song of war. The Krogan sang with pride, the Drell, with beautiful melancholy. Shepard sang with quiet darkness. She remembered feeling relieved she would probably not even live to see their child reach adulthood. She tried to shake it off.

Two graceful blue arms slipped silently around her waist, pressing firmly. "Shepard" Liara cooed quietly. God damn. That voice.

Liara had experienced so many times Shepard stirring from her nightmares that she no longer tried to talk her bondmate into calm. She simply held her lover and said nothing. In a way, they had both fought their demons for so long they didn't even feel weary any more. Sharing each other's burdens equally somehow had caused this emotional immortality. Shepard enjoyed Liara's soothing aura a moment more, then guided Liara to the nearby couch, standing a while longer while Liara sat, trying to balance with her large belly. Shepard contemplated Liara, who attentively sat upright, looking steadily at Shepard.

Shepard delicately traced her fingers along the ridges of Liara's head. Liara closed her eyes, leaning against Shepard. "Dr. T'Soni," Shepard said, bringing a hand to Liara's stomach, "I do believe you're about to pop." "So are you" Liara smiled as she poked Shepard's belly. Shepard frowned defensively. She had certainly been getting softer, but was she really fat? For the first time in her life, she cared: "Do you think I'm fat?" "No" Liara responded peacefully, "but if you were I certainly wouldn't care. You would be just as compelling." Shepard was very turned on by the sultry tones she thought she heard. She knelt down and successfully wrapped her arms all the way around Liara, who returned the embrace.

"I. Love you." Shepard sighed.

Liara smiled again.

"Are you coming to bed now?"

"Mhmm. In a little while."

Liara arose and swayed to the bedroom. Shepard watched her go. Liara was still amazingly sexy, even as pregnant as she was. Shepard had found her serenity through the whole process slightly alarming; Liara was always calm, but Shepard had expected some kind of flux in emotion as Liara's body adjusted to creating a child. Apparently Asari pregnancies were smooth sailing. As her mind wandered in silence, she thought again of the dream. Was she really so afraid of having a child? She didn't see why she needed to be afraid. Contemplatively, she sat down on the ground and started doing a few sit-ups.

In the morning Shepard went jogging. To clear her mind, she told herself. Not to get in shape; she already was. Mostly. She returned to house, sweating and panting, to see her love already up and calmly drinking a cup of coffee. Liara was interested in her data-pads. She did not look up as Shepard crossed the room and went to the shower. If she knew what Shepard had been doing or why, she didn't comment, however a slight and amused smile crossed her face after Shepard left the room.
When Shepard finally joined Liara at breakfast, she thought about her ridiculous dream. "Liara," Shepard asked, "I know you've already explained this a few times, but tell me more about how Asari pregnancy works?" Liara looked up, "Well Shepard, I am, as you put it, about to 'pop.' Asari pregnancy is very similar to human female pregnancy, but a major difference is that the daughter, when she is ready to be born, will let the mother know via mental bond, and then the labor will begin, no sooner." "That's convenient" Shepard dolled with a little sarcasm. "I agree," Liara stated matter-of-factly "The bond the mother shares with child allows them to communicate, somewhat. The strong state of cooperation anyways makes the labor much less intensive than human-birth, so Asari generally tend to have children on their own, without any medical assistance."
Shepard gazed at Liara, then said firmly "Well I don't care this time about Asari tradition. We're taking no chances. Dr. Chakwas will be on board and that's final." Liara raised an eyebrow; she found Shepard's renegade side annoying at best, especially since in this case it was unnecessary. They had already agreed to this. "I have no objections to Dr. Chakwas," she calmly said as she drew her attention back to her data pads. "Garrus will be visiting today, not sure when," Shepard poured herself a cup of coffee, "He's been running through his little underground networks lately and said he had some important information for me."
The house made an odd chiming sound. Shepard grinned, "Speak of the bug-faced bastard." Shepard happily sprung up to answer the front door.

I wanted to take all this stuff out and then my brain just kept adding stuff. Why brain? Why? Hopefully it jumps around less. And I'm finally changing the title to something decent. Hooray. It's honestly very tempting to keep it as it is.