The Prompt: FemShep/Liara Arguments
Totally stole this off of tumblr:
"Imagine your OTP having an argument. One of them accuses the other of lying about something. Their argument grows too heated causing one to just storm out of the room, leaving the other to scream at the closed door before sinking to the floor in tears"
Post reaper war
Shepard is the one storming out.
Maybe some time lapse and they reconcile (doesn't need to be years maybe months or something)
Re-statement of Romance:
The night knows nothing of the chants of night.
It is what it is as I am what I am:
And in perceiving this I best perceive myself
And you. Only we two may interchange
Each in the other what each has to give.
Only we two are one, not you and night,
Nor night and I, but you and I, alone,
So much alone, so deeply by ourselves,
So far beyond the casual solitudes,
That night is only the background of our selves,
Supremely true each to its separate self,
In the pale light that each upon the other throws.
To cap off the fight, the entire evening, Liara had to open the door for her, and Shepard had to kick the door so it would slam. And yes, it was hard to storm out on crushes, but damnit, Jane had done the best she could. At least she got the satisfaction of seeing the shocked look on her bondmate's face.
She really did it.
They waited twenty seconds together, separated by the expensive wood from some planet that was now on fire.
Then Liara began screaming at Jane's general direction.
It brought more satisfaction that reminded Shepard of eating too much candy or cake frosting. Which reminded her of the regret that would follow. Clutching her stomach, face smeared with sickening sweetness, "why did I eat so much!?" Because it had felt so good, one mouthful becoming two then half the can or bag was gone, and then it became a fucking challenge to finish it off. You'd throw away the remains, victorious, and hating yourself for eating so much.
The screaming was becoming shuddering, stammering. Jane could see that round blue face purpling, the hands rising to cover her reaction. Then the tears that darkened those blue eyes and rolled down past the freckles, the nose, to her cheeks. No one there to kiss them away now.
Shepard shuffled her ass down the stairs, and was proud that she only fell twice down the slippery marble.
If she'd been younger, she would have gotten in her hovercar, and driven away. Back to a motel or her Mother's house or to a friend's to crash on a couch. Driven listening to angry music and shoring up her wrongs and defensiveness and knowing that she'd been in the right.
Unfortunately, aside from probably being too busted up to properly drive (and Jane had never been great at that skill), it was all locked up and protected. Given its owner was the Shadow Broker, if Jane tried to break in, it would explode. Plus, Shepard didn't even have the keys, there was no way she was going back up there to get them. The only thing that she was capable of moving on this war-torn street they'd settled on was that rat running off like she was going to steal whatever horrible thing it had been carrying.
Strange, to be surrounded by such opulence and ruin. Half of their apartment had been covered in ash, the rest in silk and Persian rugs. They hadn't needed much, though. Neither was afraid of roughing it, although sometimes Jane would miss the Normandy for its nice shower alone. They had slept on the floor, spooning on blankets and each other. "I love you, I love you more than anything." That had been enough to make them happy, despite the back pains.
There was a shuddering scream of wood from above, and Jane looked up.
To see Liara, tear-stained and pissed off. Those blue eyes seemed to blaze, even from this distance. "If that's how you feel about us, then just don't come back."
"Fine. I won't!" Her voice cracked tragically.
Liara disappeared, and for a moment, Jane thought she might be running downstairs to catch her. She always would give in to make peace, the one to slide against her seeking comfort, the first to apologize and express feelings that Jane tried to keep locked up. Her time as an information broker hadn't changed that aspect of the asari.
Then she was back, with a heavy black trash bag held to her shoulders. "Then don't!"
Which didn't make a lot of sense as Shepard would have pointed out if that bag hadn't been falling down four flights, aimed at her. No real way to run from it, so she simply fell forward and skinned her palms some more to avoid getting another concussion. Lying there, on the filthy cement, seeing a cat beneath a rusted out shell of a car across the street nursing a pack of filthy kittens, Shepard could weigh her pride against this scene.
If she'd stayed inside, she also wouldn't be seeing what looked like a scruffy dog carrying what might have been a human ear. Her clothes wouldn't be covered in motor oil and unnamable black goop and who-the-fuck-knew-what that was?
This was the aftermath of those post-dystopian novels she'd read as a teenager. After the initial cleaning up and regrouping of society.
She'd told Liara that no, let's move somewhere secluded. 'I'm sick of being around people.' Now she had to fight feral crows to hang their clothes on the line to dry. Their neighbors were wild dogs and ruined rivers and places that even the husks hadn't wanted.
It had been this place, or some nothing place in the Artic, with nothing but the thoughts in their heads. A concept that lost its initial pleasure after Jane spent five minutes in her shower, trying to clear her mind while running cold water to prepare herself. Only to lose her mind after two minutes, shivering, throwing herself onto the bed and its warm sheets.
Liara had handled this place with aplomb. Using her past experiences of living in dig sites to survive and show Jane how to use matches. Forcing smiles, and reminding Jane of the benefits. No interruptions. Except for her own, when she heard some news or got a call that couldn't wait. Then it was all 'sorry, Shepard' and shoving Jane off her.
That was a sour memory that helped her crawl to her feet. The weird personal secrets she'd kept from Shepard, like the existence of her father, and being all cagey about what she'd done those past two years when Jane had been dead. Despite everything, she still kept things to her chest, that one.
Instead of going back, she literally waved a fist in Liara's direction, to keep her determination. Vowing revenge, and to stay away until Liara came to her senses. She managed to sling the garbage bag over her shoulder, and then headed away from their apartment. The entire building was basically theirs, but that wasn't anything to brag about. All full of splintered wood on the fifth floor, the drains falling apart, the roof caving in, and Jane turning about to be the worst handyperson ever.
People had assumptions about her and Liara, and their roles, and thinking about her partner with that saw and sander reminded her of that too. Jane was the butch one, supposedly, the one to shoot heads off everything and squish spiders and be a bad dancer and act all awkward in that dress. Well, she didn't sit well in that dress, literally, and she was aware of the jokes made about the 'Shepard Shuffle' but the rest was all on Liara. Her phobia of insects was focused on bees, but spiders were also terrible things to find in your shoes. And Liara sometimes had better aim than her, and less pity for what she was shooting, be it geth or mercenary or spy. And the better cook too.
Fuck, Jane couldn't even decorate, or even find a nice bouquet of flowers for Liara, when they'd gone on dates. She wasn't even the calm rational one, or the one that was able to let things roll off. Maybe she had more of a sense of humor, sure.
…And Liara had all the money and handled the paperwork. Knew about stocks and would watch the news reports on markets while Jane tried to change the channel to cartoons or a sitcom. Jane had better taste in music, but Liara was refined, she knew about opera and how to listen to music and identify instruments and keys correctly.
She was so screwed.
Liara should have thrown her out years ago.
There was only one thing to do, and that was to get on her omni-tool, and call her Mom to pick her up.
For five hours, Shepard waited outside what had been a park, in the remains of probably a skating ring. About five hundred years ago, it might have been beautiful place. Now it was not even post-dystopian. This was the stuff of holovids. All it needed were zombies and mushroom clouds being added to the scene through computers.
Things floated in the water, and more crows had followed her to peck at them. The murder followed her throughout her trip through this shit hole. Their beady eyes taking in every movement, waiting for her to slip on the snow in these damned crushes. Then they would swoop down and begin feasting on her, like vultures.
Shepard was thankfully she'd grabbed a jacket before stomping and dragging herself out of the apartment. Any warmth was appreciated in her life right now. And when, if Hannah or Liara came looking for her, they'd have some way to identify her body. Not even her dental records might be enough, because Cerberus had also fucked with her teeth and filled cavities and added caps and whitener.
She saw a burned sign with the words 'Wee' left, and she had a feeling it was not supposed to be a cry of delight.
Somehow, despite people probably not having been anywhere near this place in a long time, there were still lots of used condoms littering the ground.
Considering how long she'd walked what might have been west, she shouldn't have cared about such things. She'd passed what had been an airport, fleeing at the sight of people who would never believe she was the Jane Shepard. Her hair had grown too long at Liara's request, as she had a deep love for running her fingers through it and simply admire the way it looked. She had new facial scars, and was paler than ever beneath her scattering of freckles.
She continued southward, despite the pain. The fear and growing rage at her situation gave her strength. Again, she had to replay that conversation that she'd just so recently had with her mother, and let that sink in rather than thinking about Liara crying and hating her.
"No way, Jane, am I headed to that god-forsaken state."
"You have to come get me. Christ. I'm on crutches. It's lucky I made it this far."
"Look, you get to Pennsylvania, and we'll talk."
"Are you kidding me? Are you not in Ohio?"
"Yes, I'm at our old home. Your Dad's here. We both got on shore leave, and we're too busy to come just whisk you away from your little paradise in blue heaven. I thought you were too important, too busy being free of any and all responsibilities to even call your mother?"
"Dad's there." Dad and Mom. On shore leave. Busy. "Eeewww."
"What, what's wrong?"
"I'm fucking trying to get a place to stay for now. My friends are all over the galaxy right now. With their families. Because they love them."
"What happened to your shack? With that 'bondmate' of yours?"
"That asari girl kicked you out?"
"No! I left her!"
"…really? You sure?"
"What, yes, I was there. I know what happened."
"Why? Jane, maybe you should rethink that?"
"I didn't think you even liked Liara? Now you want her to be part of the family? What the hell, Mom?"
"Sometimes. Initially, I was wary, but she definitely wasn't a dancer just looking to sink her hooks into you. I found those papers she had published, really fascinating stuff. Normally I don't care much about the protheans, but it was still interesting, even if most of it went over my head. There's a good head on her shoulders. So what if it's blue and has those tentacle things?
"She was always polite. She keeps in contact, did you know? We exchanged some stories, about you. Gave me advice on my latest battle wound, and how to keep it from scarring. She sent your father a ratchet set. Just because she thought she'd like it. You don't even send things for Father's Day."
"She wanted to have children, Mom!"
"I can see how that might be a problem."
"No, Mom, asari don't have that two-gender thing."
"You mean sexual reproduction. God, Jane, we sent you to a private school."
"On an Alliance ship. You were there. It didn't count." She was growing distracted, tugging at her too long hair. "We're having a spat. That's all."
"But you'll fix it up, right?"
"Now you want us to shack up, in our sleazy apartment? Have fifteen little blue kids running underfoot?" Her voice cracked again, ruffling the feather of the watching crows.
"She has a doctorate, Jane. Not that a university degree is everything, but I think she's a good influence on you."
Her poor naïve Mother that didn't know about what she'd done on Illium, at Liara's request. The shit Liara had done to get her body back.
"I don't know. I think you should go back."
Shepard looked over the naked trees, towards the sky, counting down from ten. Did the math on how long it would take for Garrus/Tali to come from the quarian planet, to rescue her. Miranda and Jack were on some colony planet, and also 'busy.' The others in the Alliance, and who knew where exactly. The air smelled like soot, and there was something comforting to focus on. She could do this. She had talked counselors into coming together to fight a race of evil robots, had stopped wars from breaking out and forged a peace. She was Jane Shepard, once Commander of the Normandy, slayers of Reapers and savior of the galaxy. She could talk her own mother into giving her a ride home.
"Mom. I understand. I do. You want me to be happy. I'd like that too. And right now, I need to regroup."
"But you're not breaking up with Liara, are you?" That voice was so tense, it made Jane's blood pressure rise. For once, Hannah was really using Liara's name.
"You can bring her for the holidays, I wasn't really serious. And her Father too. And half-sister. I'll break out the good liquor."
"For them. So, Liara wants kids, and you just left her? How could you?"
"We needed space. She threw my stuff out too."
"Good for her."
"I'm your child! Your only daughter!"
"Your brother's doing well. I noticed you didn't even ask about him."
"I'm kinda having my own problems now, Mom." She looked at the bag that held everything she now owned. It was beginning to tear. Of course it was.
"Does Liara only like human woman? Because John's single, and while we're not sure if he likes woman or not—"
Shepard finally lost it, and threw back her head to begin howling laughter. Her grip on the bag slipped, and it fell into the snow, spilling out shirts and a pair of jeans. No underwear in there, Jane discovered. Either a weird punishment, or Liara had forgotten, in her rage. No, her bondmate forgot nothing. This was another way to get back at her lover for deciding that she'd rather wait for those little blue kids.
This was her life, her fucked up life. Her mother was going to abandon her so that at her funeral, she could set John (who was so clearly her favorite) on the mourning asari. Johnny, who was so awkward and dorky, and would be perfect for Liara, goddamnit. He probably wanted to have kids too. They'd screw right there on Jane's coffin, and the other crew members wouldn't even care because they had their own troubles and kids and lives, and so go at it New Shepard and Liara.
They'd scraped her back together, for the second time, after finding her at the Crucible. The time and energy poured into these veins. All for naught. The end came for all mortal creatures, and Shepard was at the end of the line.
After listening to her cawing giggles, Hannah agreed to pick her up, but only if she headed closer towards the border. Then turn on the omni-tool and shut off the firewalls so her mom could track her but hopefully not look up her search and shopping history. Maybe she liked Liara now, but there was no reason to disturb her with visions of what the asari would do to her only daughter.
Now she sat, exhausted, on a bench, looking at graffiti genitalia. So much of it was asari, and she guessed that was more punishment heaped on her freckled head.
What the hell had they both been thinking, coming to this place that even before the war, people were warned to stay away from? Especially Liara. Had this just been another challenge to her? This entire area was horrible, you couldn't raise an animal there. Even their hamster had turned into a nervous wreck, just living here and dealing with the wild animals and occasional refugee that they were both glad to help. Liara especially liking the company, for some reason. Probably a relief from dealing with her work, or Jane.
When the hovercar showed up, the person behind the wheel was pissed off. Then they saw Jane, and looked concerned, and pitying. Her dad was not the sort to easily express emotion, and she was cut from the same cloth, but looking at each other after so long, and after what they'd been through, both their emotions were self-evident. He hopped out of the car, immediately after stopping it, to embrace her.
"Alright you two. Let's get moving."
Jeff and Jane Shepard both discreetly rubbed at their eyes, looking towards some great distance. Fuck, it was a dusty day.
"Hey, little sister."
"I'm older than you."
"But smaller. I got you beat there."
"This is great. Just a big happy family get-together. Move over, John." She shoved her bag of clothes onto his lap, then gave him her attempt at a hug. It was good to see him still breathing, even if he was an annoying dweeb that might try to steal Liara away.
"Up this road?"
"Just follow the GPS, Jeff."
"Huh? Where are headed, exactly?"
"To see your girlfriend." John was always the most honest person in the family, the most even-headed and easiest to talk to.
Jane on the other hand reached out, despite the pain in her injured legs to grab the wheel. "I swear, I will take us all out if you do not hit the brakes and turn around."
Hannah just looked up from her place in the passenger seat, giving her a cold look with those chilly dark blue eyes, nothing like Liara's. "Try it."
"Hey, guys, let's talk this through."
"Jeff. Do not stop this car."
Her brother's voice was getting higher in volume. "Dad. You're not going to let Jane crash another car, are you?"
"What are you doing? What are you doing?"
"Are we really playing chicken, with the hovercar, you two?"
Jane met her mother's gaze, unafraid. "You can take your foot off the gas at any time, Jeff."
"We are going to see Liara. I want your father to thank her for that present. And she sent John that lovely model of the ship he served."
That's where that thing had gone.
Something snapped, and Jane began turning the wheel, despite her dad's attempts to grab it away. She was finally stronger than her old man, but that didn't bring any pleasure. Maybe if she'd been fourteen and arm-wrestling him, but now she felt bone-weary of being such a different person than when she was ten years younger and without any cybernetics and no pain from having the love of her life kicking her out of the home they shared.
At least Jeff was slowing down. "Jane!"
John was in the back, innocent John, trying to grab her and getting only a crutch in the face. She was stronger than him too, now. "For god's sake."
"You're going to kill all of us. Just like when you set the garage on fire!"
"That was an accident. This is deliberate."
Neither she nor her mother blinked or looked away, but the Rear Admiral finally also seemed to crack. "Fine. We'll stay out of your business."
Jane let go of the wheel, for her father to scramble to turn the thing around and keep them from crashing into another tree. "Thank you."
"And your hair looks terrible."
The drive home was otherwise uneventful.
She'd been with only Liara for company for so long, that now even her family reminded her of sides to her bondmate.
Dad talked about nothing much, full of ellipses in that quiet way of his. In another life, he must have been a cowboy that focused on the range and horses. He seemed to get along in life through a perpetual bubble of silence, lost in a daydream perhaps. Liara's quiet nature.
John was reluctant crazed smiles, and chattering was just like the archeologist, when Jane had first met her. He looked at everything, wide-eyed and wanting to take pictures and ask questions. Sitting there, broad and muscled, he looked like a pair of marines that had been combined. Tired and ready for retirement, and still eager to help others and run into a hail of gunfire. He'd signed up years ago, rising up while getting his head down, to avoid connections between him and the famous other Shepard. Looking nothing like her had helped.
Momma Shepard was almost as scary as a pissed off Liara. But without the biotics and sex appeal. Ugh.
Jane shuddered in the back, her forehead pressed into the window. She'd wanted Liara to meet these people. For handshaking and hugging to occur, and for them to all get along or hate each other magnanimously. Now they were headed away from Liara, leaving her lover all alone. She was really leaving Liara behind, and that nearly made her grab the wheel of the car again.
Fuck pride, just don't make me have to go home with these people. Take me back to her, and I'll crawl up those stairs on my bloody knees.
Instead, she held her tongue and watched the nightmarish landscape fade as they headed west. In the silence, she thought of Liara. She'd been there when Jane had woken up, the first to tell her what happened, the first to touch her.
Shepard could remember a hundred different moments, their scenes stapled and unmovable in her mind. Herself pinned beneath Liara, exposed and begging for her, 'I'll do anything, just please fuck me.' Having her shoulders gripped, her hips pulled, positioned, however her lover wanted her. Stripping naked and waiting for Liara to come in, surprising her every time, even when though that was a game they'd played back on the Normandy. Waking up in those familiar blue arms, to slide beneath the sheets and say good morning in a more substantial way than with a cup of coffee, though that was appreciated too. Marks on both of them, still, from fingers and teeth and mouths. Cupping Liara to her chest, kissing her forehead, "it was worth everything, to be here. I never thanked you, for saving me." But she had, her lover assured her, and she would.
Jane spoke only once, and that was to tell her disturbed parents that she needed to go buy some underwear, when they got to civilization.
It seemed like, for all she'd done, she would always come back to this place. If there was an afterlife, if not on the Normandy, commanding another mission, Shepard would be in this place. Listening to her parents downstairs and John in his room. Hopefully, Liara would be here too, in this fantasy of an afterlife, wrapped in her, with Jane's favorite corny music playing on the stereo. There would only be this quiet peace in knowing that she wasn't needed by anyone around her for this one moment, only Liara to focus her attention on.
"Why did you and that asari break up?" John had sounded only polite at the dinner table. "I thought you were pretty serious?"
With him, with his concern, Jane didn't feel so angry. She could pull her emotions out, inspect them, and wonder what they were all about. Self-reflection was not something she focused on too often. There was too much hidden beneath her often blank face. Too many truths. Sometimes, Liara would ask her things, and grow tired of her glibness. Let it lie, dear. Sounding too old, in her own head.
"We are. We're just spending some time apart."
They were not new to the concept of an argument before. But nothing like this. It was all 'hey, no, I want this on my side of the pizza, put those onions on yours, let's watch this holovid, I'm the sick one over here.' It had always been settled with smiles and rolling eyes and making out and Eternity Embracing.
She remembered the dumbest things they might argue about, like redesigning that apartment in Illium and about their cooking and over who cleaned the dishes tonight. One, claiming that this gumbo thing tasted awful, a thing that Liara had spent hours on, only for Jane's bowl to end up on her head. But they'd both laughed that one off while Jane was hosed down in a way that was surprisingly unsexy.
When Liara finally revealed during one bad period after Thessia that she'd taken up smoking, lighting up in her sleep while Shepard watched, mesmerized. Her lame, 'that's bad for you' joking about second-hand smoke and what damage that would cause to their future children, and Liara was going to sound like her Dad, but secretly turned on by the whole process of lighting, and seeing the slim cigarette in her blue hand. Eyes half lidded against the smoke.
There had always been a few problems. The age difference hadn't been a major thing, though. Liara had acted young enough, and was very sheltered. Now, not so much. There was part of her that would set the universe on fire, if it had meant getting rid of the Reapers. And just because the war ended, didn't mean that part had left her, had healed.
Shepard only wanted to do what she did now, and lie here in a quiet dark bedroom. In a place that functioned without her. She could close her eyes, and just breathe.
She'd come up here, to this room she'd grown up in, feeling the snow in her boots and the sweat drying on her back. Feeling the strain of how long she'd walked, and barely being able to remove her jacket and shoes before collapsing. Satisfying, to feel a burn in her muscles from actual exercise, rather than just having such sucking at doing normal things. Unable to walk on her own, hating the crutches to the point of throwing them as hard as she could, and there wasn't much wrong with her arms when she was angry. Liara had just picked them up and repaired the damage. Now, they just sat there against her desk with its chipped surface and the books still scattered on it.
Where John was as hopeless as Jane could be, Hannah kept her ear to the ground. At the least, her mother had probably found out about her being an information broker, after hanging up her metaphorical lasso and fedora. "Was her work getting in the way?"
"No. Not exactly."
"So it was kids, then? You know, Jane, you and your brother were both accidents."
"Thanks. Just call us 'mistakes' and be done with it."
"No, I don't regret having you two. Sometimes, I used to. Not maliciously," Hannah said, actually trying to make some comforting gesture. Seeing her daughter, her hero daughter on her bed like a depressed teen had shorted out something in her head. "But seeing you two in danger…even as children, you would climb on everything and risk breaking your necks every day."
Couldn't control her kids, and so wished they didn't exist. Jane could understand with too much ease. "Yeah, you've got me all figured out, Mom. Fear of loss is keeping me from Liara."
"You can act all high-and-mighty with everyone else, but I changed your diapers. I raised and mourned you. I know you, and it doesn't matter how much you've done, you're still human."
"Barely. I have even more cybernetic parts than ones I was born with." Jane pointed to her crutches. Months, and still using them. "I have to use them because my body's trying to reject them. I keep finding blood on my clothes, from the damn things rotting out of me. Or maybe it's the organic parts that are falling apart. My back's still a mess. I couldn't walk for weeks after they found me. Who knows how long I'll be using them?"
I am still dying. I am dying. How long could I have? My bodies a wreck, and I should be fighting it, but I am tired.
Liara had been in that team, to find her in the wreckage. Had been the one to actually find her, and help dig her out, exhausted and with her own fresh wounds. 'What happened in there, Jane?'
'I don't remember.'
There was fear on that hard face that Jane had only inherited a rough imprint of. Human, and Jane had to turn away. It was like seeing her naked or something. Even when Jane and her brother had done something dangerous, her first instinct had always been to rage. The little league games had been very traumatizing, in particular. "You'll get better."
"It's…Mom. It's alright."
She scared her mother out of her room, for once. It was another accomplishment that Jane had never wanted to complete. That was all she was good at, bludgeoning and hacking at whatever enemy she could find. Even her peace-keeping had always come from wearing away at someone, balancing the fear and the rage that made her want to grab whoever she was talking to and shake them until they had bitten their one tongues off.
I'm still there, at the Crucible, making that choice. I'm just looking over my shoulder, seeing Liara behind me on that street. Anderson is right here, growing still. I will get up, holding my side and knowing that this was it, please, let this be it.
She'd found a lighter in her garbage bag, and didn't know what to make of that at all. Shepard was never so great with any subtlety. Even Cerberus had known that, with their strange picture of Liara taken at some point and put on her desk. Jane hadn't even been capable of doing something like that. The stuff that she kept was her dog tags, and that was partially for Liara's own sentimentality. The chattering husk skull, as a joke. The terminal with scant personal information on it. Her clothes, nothing special either. 'Standard issue' described Jane Shepard, and she was fine with that until everyone kept thinking that she was somehow special.
Was she supposed to go back, and give her that lighter? It wasn't inscribed, or anything. Just simple, solid and heavy and made out of something like silver or titanium. Bought on Illium, Jane would bet. Liara had a dozen just like it. Liara, with a cigarette clenched between her teeth, shoving things into this bag while juggling the lighter, spitting out the cigarette to throw that bag out the window. Gathering clothes, folded by Jane herself as she could do that much, and slipping that lighter in as a memento. A good-bye present?
Was she thinking of her own parents, as she'd filled that bag? Seen their ghost, imagined their own fights, their own separation. The Commander had been her first everything, and she could hear Liara's thoughts, her hatred of failure, and what this might mean.
Shepard turned the silver rectangle over and over again in her freckled hands. Callouses beginning to soften, but fingers still too thin. This is the hand of someone that has shaped the galaxy. It is not in the least bit remarkable.
Only, Liara wasn't pregnant. Probably.
Could she be, would Liara keep that from her? Their last time, it had been the same, Jane lying in a puddle on their wrinkled sleeping bags, smiling at that blue back that was searching for an ashtray. The same lighter? being used and the smoke that signified either stress or satisfaction. Smiling, and rolling onto her side. Neither talking, it was unnecessary, even without the meld. Had there been a distance? The peace before the storm?
Was the fight over their future that storm, or was it a possibly pregnancy?
If she'd just finished taking Shepard's DNA, that would explain why she was smoking. No baby yet, 'this is the last one I'll ever light up.' Fuck, the lighter might have been a sign of that. She'd given up smoking, for their daughter.
Dad, his turn, coming in to knock to check on her, asking if she wanted dessert, she'd hardly touched dinner, maybe she should eat. "C'mon, kid. Get up."
"Don't even try it, Jeff. You're out of your league."
"I have been married for longer than you've been on the planet. You think your Mother and I don't have our disagreements? I've never met this Liara girl, never even talked to her really, but she seemed understanding enough. Honey. You think you're the only soldier that came back different?"
At least Dad was finally bringing it up, those four letters that had never been used to describe Shepard. She was the Commander, and the one to pick people up after they'd fallen down.
"Dad. I'm okay. This is just relationship problems. I'm not psychologically scarred. And I know I'm lucky, and I'm grateful.
"I don't have nightmares or flashbacks. I'm just feeling a little tired. We needed space."
"Jane. Are you alright? There are doctors here. Not just for the head either. I heard about the extent of your problems. From the extranet, and from your Mom. Liara…was vague about them. She just told us that you woke up, basically. We came to visit you."
He laughed, and Jane realized that she'd gotten a lot of her voice from him. Liara had once leaned informed her over the omni-tool that just hearing Shepard alone could make her knees weak. "You look better than when we saw you then. Hair aside."
Jane looked at her father for a while, not blinking. "I came back very different, Dad. Before this happened."
She gestured at her crutches. "Before that. After Cerberus fixed me up."
"We were never really clear on that." Jeff leaned against the doorway. "About what happened."
He was her father, the guy that had pulled her down from trees and comforted her about John's birth, 'no, honey, we can't take him back.'
Maybe he didn't want to know anything more about his daughter's death. "You going to be okay?"
"I'll be fine. Dad? Did you and Mom ever have any problems where you just had enough?" Shepard paused. "Did you ever just look at her, and think that about how different you were, from the person you met? And her, too? If you're just two new people, acting out the same roles?"
"Sometimes. We've been together for a while. The trick is deciding if you still like the new people. And you know, from there, you just decide if you want to be together. With new roles and changes."
"Adapt or die."
"As you'd know well."
"So just work at it? Buy her flowers and chocolates and give foot messages?"
"'Work at it' is such a vague term. But the other stuff helps too. Just be happy the other person is near you, and let them know."
"Thanks. That's not so bad."
"Jeez. Thanks, kid. You sure you don't want pie or anything?"
"No. I'm alright. Don't worry about me, Dad"
And she did feel okay, despite a twinge in her stomach. 'You just say these things.' '…not just the things that you tell your squad to keep moral up.' Shepard sat there, waited for the house to fall asleep. Even the shadows on the wall that had scared her as a girl were the same.
There were guns downstairs. Her parents had a good collection, even from years back. One of their few mutual hobbies, and she and John had been using them since they were kids. She could see them, the old ones in gleaming wood and dark steel. After everyone else in the house was asleep, she hobbled down there to see them. They were old friends; she'd spent her childhood with them.
"Just in case," she told these things that were not toys, as she and John had been reminded half a million times. Because it felt nice to talk, for once. They were all still here, and that allowed her to finally leave and go upstairs to seek some sleep.
She went to a bed that she'd never shared with Liara, and it felt like cheating. They had shared their beds on the Normandy, and the hospital bed once or twice. A dozen times Liara would storm into Shepard's cabin, to toss her on some flat surface and fuck her with that strap-on that they hadn't used much anymore. Both of them grinning over the unexpected roughness of her lover, both of them only existing in that peaceful bubble of straining and pleasure and weird bruises from the desk. Shepard's best moment.
It felt wrong to sleep without Liara's presence near.
Before the sun was even up, Jane left that bed.
Her bike was still in the garage, against the wall and looking pathetic. It reminded her of the one they'd found in this underground parking structure, and the tires had been flat as hell, but Jane had convinced and taught Liara how to ride it, while Shepard jumped onto those handlebars. For this, she didn't need her crutches to move. 'This is terribly dangerous, Shepard.' While the Commander had thrown her head back and laughed at dying of a shattered cranium, after everything. Then Liara had peddled faster, going on about how insane this was, this was even worse than the Mako. It had been worth it, even if Shepard had needed help getting up, twice, after they'd crashed. Later, putting antiseptic on each other's wounds.
These tires were in a little better condition.
This was nuts, there was no way she could even throw her leg to straddle this thing. Couldn't walk, but somehow she could ride a bike? No way, skipper. She could maybe push it a little, right, use it as a converted walker. Only there was way too much pain in the leg that wasn't leaning against the rusty paint-scraped thing. Even this thing was kicking her ass.
With her head hidden by the hood of this jacket, Jane headed out to nowhere. Her hair, growing past her shoulders, rubbed uncomfortably against her neck. Liara had loved the shade of it, especially how much lighter it was at the tips, loving the contrast of colors in the sun, and so Shepard had kept growing it out. The sound of her crushes would always irk her, and Jane tried to come to peace with that fact, if nothing else.
The old houses were still here, some painted a different color, some still being fixed up. War had hardly touched this place, and she wondered why she hadn't brought Liara here. They had discussed moving somewhere populated, right after the last battle. With Jane still in a hospital bed. Holding each other's bandaged hands, her lover sounding almost wistful, like they were waiting behind a fallen wall for the enemy to come, living out a future in the brief time they had left. "We could go to Earth?"
It still hurt to talk, but keeping silent only hurt Liara, so Jane was forcing herself to speak because seeing that fear in her blue eyes was worse. "Sure, we could."
"I've never been."
"It's nice. Sometimes. In parts."
"We could meet your family?"
And they'd made their vague plans, ideas that Liara wanted to cement and make permanent. Finding out where Jane's family home was, shopping around, wanting to know where Shepard would want to stay, would she want somewhere tropic, did she want to stay in the Americas (pronounced so carefully and without the use of the translator, like she was learning English), or was there somewhere else? Europe, for instance, had hundreds of years of human history and if she'd like to see London again, watch it be repaired, they could go.
Then Jane had taken her to a remote location, miles from her family and anyone else. Liara had been cheerful, though. "We'll grow things. We'll make it our home. And you need a quiet place to recover." And they had tried their hands at a garden, with Liara talking about her mother that had also enjoyed working in the backyard, growing vegetables, the flowers that had filled the yards and inside, the fruit trees they'd had. Shepard had promised they would do that, they could clear land and she could actually learn to make something grow. Another promise she'd broken.
Mostly, they'd survived off runs to a market, faces hidden, looking like any other refugees. Pretending to be other people, in their bandages to hide their faces. Liara had quickly grown tired of it. Of this hiding, the lying if just to themselves because Shepard wasn't getting better, not here, probably not anywhere else.
She crashed into a curb she hadn't seen, sending her falling headfirst into the sidewalk. Lying there, she half-expected to see Liara to come up, glowing in her white armor. Her nurse and keeper. There to scold her and pick her up. Brushing her off, and softening eventually when she realized Jane was alright. 'Don't ever do that again.' Even though, what she should have done was wring Shepard's neck from another dumb stunt, as Jane wanted to do when Liara put herself in danger.
The only time Liara had ever grown even mildly, truly violent with her was during a failed attempt at sex, one of the first, Shepard sweating and feeling ill through it. Hissing, and pulling away, shoving herself off Shepard so the soldier lost all the breath in her lungs. Once she'd realized what Jane was feeling. "Don't lie to me. Don't pretend that you're alright."
And Jane had wanted to say she didn't know what to do, what the hell she was supposed to do now. Help me. But what could Liara do, that she wasn't already doing? Keeping her distance and trying to soothe her lover down. Hadn't Jane put enough crap on her plate, dragged her through more than one hell? In that final battle, keeping Liara at her side, then the explosion, getting lost and knowing to only move ahead, leaving her behind. The battles before it.
At least she hadn't pretended anymore that how she felt was only a temporary situation. Smiling, when she'd been able to still joke about her condition, 'when I feel better, we can talk about it.'
'Please, Shepard' had turned to 'Don't. Don't. Don't.' over and over again until the syllable had implanted itself in her mind, and that was definitely taking.
Left her waiting for so long. I couldn't even care for a plant; I couldn't even get to that roof without help.
Existing in that purgatory, Liara just waiting for something to change. Happy to be with her, but nevertheless wanting Shepard to change to that old Commander that was always with a smile and had determination. That did not burst into rages, "I left my guns, do you get that? I'm retired, I'm with you, what more do you want?"
Liara, cringing, "I just want you."
It was like she knew where to put that knife.
I'm fucking dependent on you. You see the blood on my clothes, you see me hobbling around. You know what a mess I am. I'm different now.
She picked herself off the ground, and didn't bother brushing off snow or leaves, but just headed home instead. Probably looking like she'd been mugged, and that made her wish that she hadn't left her weapons on the Normandy. She'd taken only a few mementos from the ship, the dog tags and husk skull and picture of Liara, her black-red N7 armor that had seen her through so much.
All of that left at the apartment, and Shepard didn't know what that meant. Was she expecting to go back, or had she thrown her hands up and given up on all that that stuff? What did Liara think, as she saw that stuff in their apartment? The remnants of a life they'd tried together, their first life outside of the war.
Shepard hadn't been able to grow any fruits, but there had been that first time she'd brought Liara a package of blueberry. They'd licked the stray juice from each other's chins and left stains on their sheets. A nice moment, in that hell.
Liara only seemed to talk about their problems, in some oblique way, with her father. Or at least Aethyta would ask pointed questions, about why they were there, how long would they be there, was there a bondmate ceremony coming up? She was reconnecting with old friends, over the extranet anyway. And with her distant father's side of the family, the lost half-sisters and their own children that were as young as herself, and their own families that they were starting.
As Shepard went alternatively cold and hot inside, dreading the messages that Liara was no doubt exchanging, possibly more baby pictures that she no longer showed Jane.
There would be mornings where Shepard would watch her, this strange creature she shared her life with. And just think of how long they'd been together, physically in the same ship and otherwise. This bright person that had decided to make Jane her partner, and couldn't have foreseen how much it would cost her.
I killed her mother. I've killed so many people. They're all fucking faceless and silent, but standing right behind me. I am in no position to start a family. I can't even deal with the one that I was born into.
She shouldn't have to deal with this. She fell in love with a whole person, with Commander Jane Shepard.
And I'm no longer that person. Even if EDI and Joker say I'm the real captain of the Normandy.
During one night, hair wild and uneven from the latest surgery, she'd thrown the medals away. Tossed them into the Presidium Lake, hurling them harder than when she and Garrus had gone up there to shoot bottles. While Liara watched, and made snide comments about how dumb her pouting and tantrum was.
I'll be free, I won't think about this anymore. I'll be able to move on. I can be more than just this person who had those stupid pieces stuck to my shirt.
Refusing to meet with diplomats, to take up any position of power. Liara leaning in close, 'Jane, it's important.' Until Shepard had cursed her and told the asari to get away from her, the first time she'd told Liara to leave.
This was the first time they'd separated without any word of a future.
But she brought her cage with her, everywhere, and it was more than just the crutches or the failing cybernetics.
The next week was a horrible parody of her childhood. Waking up when her mother kept pounding on the bedroom door. Helping her Dad, and hanging out with John, doing nothing more than throwing rocks at beer bottles by the creek. There had once been a time as a teenager where she thought she'd always be hungry, even after she'd signed up for the Alliance and had reached her mid then late twenties.
Only instead of going to school, she just hung around the house. Tried to take up smoking, only to throw up and hate herself for buying the same brand that Liara usually stuck to. The smell clinging to her clothes, and making her cry when she was alone in her room, shirt pressed into her face. It was like she was in mourning.
Her parents kept her distance. They'd apparently made their peace with their daughter living there for the foreseeable future.
It was her brother who finally snapped and confronted her about her situation, after another endless day spent in her bed, lighting cigarettes and putting them in an ashtray she'd found. Just watching them burn to ashes, the only interfacing she could handle at this point. Sometimes, the glowing ash would land on the sheets, but nothing ever came of that.
"Get up. Get up right now." John even sounded like an army sergeant, standing there with freshly sheared hair. Every day he'd get up at the usual time, and on the third day, he would run a buzzer over his head while Jane felt that sound sinking into her gums and loosening her teeth.
"You keep acting like you're already dead, and now you're just inflicting your body on everyone. You haven't been the same, since…"
"You got lost for those two years."
That was such a strange way to put it. Liara had probably never fully explained to them what had happened.
At least she wasn't putting the lighter beneath her hand, to flog herself further for her failures. "This is nothing new to me, John."
"That's why you're hiding out here? After spending time in Newark, of all places. Mom was pissed when you never came to visit. And that she had to find out about Liara, from the extranet."
Blasphemy, to hear her name from her brother. It discomforted her, to think of her family talking about Liara. About any part of her girlfriend occupying their minds. She didn't know if that was from being stuck out in the middle of nowhere, alone with Liara. Or maybe she was just being possessive. It seemed like something she'd seen in a holovid, her whole life. Fallen asleep to a good book in this narrow house, a place she'd never left. Her entire Alliance commission a fever dream, and she'd certainly never fallen in love with an asari archeologist and saved the galaxy.
Liara was her's, as was the pain they'd inflicted on each other, and Shepard wanted to fold their relationship up and hide it from anyone.
It was hard to pin down any of her feelings anymore. "Where the hell do you think you're staying now? You think you're not doing the same thing?"
"I'm still getting my groupings. I'm on shore leave, for a while. I didn't give up my commission."
Unlike her. Good for him. It wasn't like he had a girlfriend either. Or at least a recent failed relationship under his belt to brood over. He would probably be leaving soon too, along with her parents. Leaving her alone in this house. They were needed elsewhere, Jane was sure. People depended on them, and Shepard was an adult and could take care of herself.
She'd hardly thought about John's presence much. Or about what he'd seen when joining the marines. Why he was even here? "You like it? Being in the Alliance."
"When you're not getting shot at, or losing your friends, it can be alright. You know how it is."
"Have you seen some serious combat?"
"I was at London, but after the initial hit. I was there to visit, before Mom and Dad, when you were in the hospital." John wasn't much for subtly, no more than his sister. Or pauses. Or self-reflection, really. "There are group, you know. We could go to those. Sometimes, I go. It does help, to talk about it."
"I like talking to you, John."
Her family, still miraculously intact and whole.
Liara had wanted kids, one day. Kids to protect and watch over, in a more peaceful tone. More than one perhaps, since she'd been a lonely only child. Daughters that they would smother and never leave alone, and would be half Jane Shepard. Her poor pureblood lover, who had never had a lover before the Commander. Who had been repulsed when Jane had told her one night that she should find another bondmate after Shepard had died, someone that she could love and spend the rest of her lifetime with.
As for the group thin, there were no great traumas she could even talk about, exactly. The Blitz? That had been a victory, painful as it had been. Everything else, she'd won, in the end.
She hadn't been paralyzed. Hadn't lost any limbs, though who knew how long she had left with these parts in her would last?
And what was she supposed to say to a bunch of stranger sitting around and drinking coffee? Talk about how she was trying to sabotage the only thing she had left? Even aside from Liara, she was just begging to get into a fight with Hannah and get thrown out of her house. Talk about the crazy mood swings, about her sex life where she'd want nothing more than to screw Liara into the hard floorboards. Then flinching away when the asari went to kiss her, trying to play it off. The times when she go through the motions, for her partner's sake, only to have Liara pick up on that during their meld, and pull away.
That melding. The goddamn nightmares, especially when Liara would inadvertently form a union with Shepard, as they both slept. Waking up, and even lying down feeling dazed. Wanting an end, and how Liara had begun hiding her pistols and the sniper rifle Garrus had sent, and wouldn't buy even wine anymore because the alcohol unleashed something.
She'd wake up after a few drinks, knowing as soon as she opened her eyes that she'd messed up somehow, again. See the bruises on her bondmate from a successful drunken screw where Jane would be the dominant one. Or maybe no one had gotten off again and she'd simply lain there afterward, with her lover trying to comfort her. It didn't matter. Liara would walk on egg shells and wanting to know if the poison was gone from this quieter Shepard. For a while, it would be, between the hangover and the shame. But it wasn't worth the drinking, the asari must have decided.
I never cried in front of Liara, though she has expressed emotion over me plenty of times. The last to say how I felt about her. It's a complete cliché, that I ruined my relationship because I was afraid of hurting her. A little bullshit and oversimplification, but what the hell about relationships isn't?
She would cry in front of those strangers though. Untie the knot and everything would spill loose.
It would end up in some tabloid or something. Liara would probably find it, and Shepard could not summon the strength to even imagine her reaction. Her cover here would be blown, and then she really would have to go to some planet covered in ice, where no one ever stopped to even refuel. A place where she'd only hear her heartbeat, and would burrow into herself and hit bedrock and still keep searching for why she was even alive, and what she had done.
Liara would probably follow her there, too. And that probably hurt Jane the most.
"Jane? Are you alright? You're just sitting there."
"John, what the fuck do I do about my problems? Since you're now Siddhartha, with a worse haircut."
"Like you can talk." He tried to take the lighter from her, and watched when Shepard closed her fist around it. "And don't set anything on fire, please."
"I don't know what to do with my life. I'm literally falling apart. I'm fucking up my life, and I don't know how to stop doing that."
"You love her, this Liara woman-asari, sorry—then why are you messing around, trying to kill us all with your smoke? Or you could bring her here, rather than just annoying Mom by shacking up with her." He was moving away from her, still looking official. Her baby brother, all grown up and probably with his own adult issues.
"I'm not claiming to know what's up with you too. But you haven't smiled once since being here. Or talked about what happened those two years. Or anything about the war. It's all been focused on Liara. Maybe it's better than you two separate, and you get some help. I'm not sure if I feel alright with inflicting some innocent person with you right now. But you should at least contact her. To tell her how you feel, good or bad." He was biting the inside of his cheek, looking tense. It was a nervous tic she'd never seen him do before.
More feelings. I've never written poetry, or even taken her to dinner. It's all been focused on the war, and what might happen after that.
The honeymoon period, if they'd ever had one, was long over.
"Can you just go? For a little while. I need to think."
The once-spectre watched the sunlight leaking through the window go away.
She couldn't stay here, she didn't know if she could face Liara. Just torn in two. Either way, she was a wreck, but at least with Liara, she'd felt…better. Not good, but it was simply a little easier to rant and scream. There had been less buried. Was that better?
She looked at her legs, stretched before her on sheets that needed to be changed. Half-dead, like the rest of her. How long could she have, of this? How many years would she have to live, even with the failing implants? Ten, twenty years? Of this?
What she'd said, their final conversation, "I don't want fucking kids, Liara." The old arguments they'd had, I don't care if I'm young, Shepard, I want our daughter to have memories of you. They'd said the same words, used the same excuses and that if Liara wanted a kid, she should just find someone else to fuck, because Jane was getting awfully sick of these expectations, when she couldn't even get anywhere without falling over.
That look, of maybe hatred on that round blue face. Fury. No longer backing up, but coming at the clumsy human woman, armed and dangerous. "You are capable of moving around, just fine. So what if you have to use crutches? Would you like the doctors to take another look at your injuries? Why aren't you having your cybernetics looked at? Why are we here, Jane?"
This is not how I wanted our lives to end up. I swear. I thought I'd be dead by now.
All that stuff about us fleeing together into space was just a dream, I never thought I'd have to actual live with the shit I did.
That broke her up into laughter. She needed one of those charts, with the faces and expression, to point at and determine how she felt at this point. It burned, to imagine Liara's face, those eyes nearly black in the winter light, and not in the way they both would have wanted.
I am still alive, and I do have to live with things. I don't know if I really can have a normal life, but I can try, and I will make Liara happy about something. Tell her I'll change, I'll go back to the Alliance. No. We'll go somewhere with lots of people, we'll help others. Give me bland words of comfort from others, just let me back near you because being without you is worse.
Please. Please. I'll be better. I'll learn to be better. Maybe we can start a family, after I get my head on straight, if you want. If that makes you happy, and you're not terrified of inflicting an innocent child with my genes.
Jane stumbled around the room. Found a pair of scissor and managed to snip off the last couple of inches from her hair, pleased for some reason at the handful of light orange hair in her hands. It probably looked ragged now, but who gave a fuck. That was the least of her worries. Like Liara was going to reject her because of a shitty haircut.
That amusement came, and she reveled in it.
Maybe it was just a manic upswing, but Shepard would take whatever she could get at this point.
She hadn't felt so decent in so long. Not good, she knew there was going to be work ahead, that nebulous vague term. But better. No pleasure in this exactly, but satisfaction. Shepard was up again, wrestling with her jacket, and on the move. A new mission, utterly corny and trite, but true and that was nice. Maybe she'd been crawling already on bedrock, and now was time to start looking upward, at least.
Such words of love and affection: with you, I think I can learn to hate myself a little less.
You're the only think I can trust and actually let my guard down around. You make me feel less like suffocating. Like I'm already dead.
Alive. I can still feel alive with you around.
She grasped that thought, while she gathered what few items she had left and threw them into a suitcase.
Shepard would show up, pounding on the front door, breathless, I can't live without you. It was bad, but now it's worse. I'm fucked up. I want help. Help my Liara, help me get better. I want to be that person you fell in love with, not this thing that can't even smile anymore.
It felt so good to have a plan. Even with the guilt of her running away from Liara firmly planted, it was such a damn relief to know what she should do now.
The night before her Mother was supposed to head back to her post, Jane came to her sibling up before anyone else could wake. "I need your help. Again."
"Mm? 'course. What's wrong?"
"Get up, please. And put on pants, for the love of god." Though she was giggling, and trying to cover her eyes while balancing on the crutches. Definitely manic.
John helped her steal their Mom's hovercar, and for that alone, Jane loved him. She even told him so, and watched him blink in surprise as she tried to maneuver her crutches. "I don't know where I'll end up, you know, after groveling to Liara and begging her to take me back, but when we get settled wherever, you can come visit. But After stealing her car, I'm going to ask you to keep the location a secret from Mom."
Probably crash out no more than five yards from this garage. Or maybe a mere mile from Liara. That would be way more satisfyingly tragic. Childish and nonsensical as hell, Shepard found herself flipping off the old homes of her parent's neighbors. The entire neighborhood, because she could leave and never see this again. This old ugliness. She was still alive, and could escape and curse and rage and smell cigarettes on her clothes and move.
It was a fucked up ride that made her empathize with Joker all the more. Except the hot-shot pilot was way better on his feet than her, as he'd mentioned a hundred times. The last time the crew had been together, holding drinks, with Garrus smiling and cracking jokes about Shepard's aim still being better than Joker's so he'd better watch himself. Tali next to him, getting a little tipsy and laughing at everything. Ashley and Vega and Cortez getting serious about their drinking and Javik shaking his head at all of them. Liara, to lean against and nearly carry Shepard to their cabin.
That kiss, the tumbled into the bed, literally, and being so glad to be alive and with her. Had she actually said something horrible, something along the lines of 'I don't know what I'd do without you.' Something that made her want to drive this car off a bridge?
Shepard remembered the sleeping melds that hadn't brought on nightmares, dreams of each other's families and lost memories of their childhoods. What their life together could be. After the war.
When she got there, Liara was gone and had been for some time it looked like. Taking her clothes and personal belongings. Leaving only Shepard's armor in the closet and her chipped dog tags on their rough attempt at a bed.