A/N: Really don't have much to say, other than this was a difficult chapter. Six drafts later and it finally felt right.
Her steel gray eyes looked over the crash site. The ship had been specially ordered as an emblem of her power. She regretted its current state, but it could be repaired. She heard the approaching footsteps; she recognizing the cadence as belonging to Bray she kept her back to him.
Her tone was brisk and emotionless, "What is it Bray?"
"The older human…her situation is slowly deteriorating. It would be easier to…"
Aria raised a hand, she smiled with satisfaction as he stopped speaking. Her tone was menacing and laced with anger.
"I suggest that you exhaust all available options to secure her survival. Alive the humans guarantee us a powerful ally, but in the event she dies I want it to be known we did everything we could to save her."
"I...it was not my intention to overstep."
He turned to leave, but turned around at the sound of her voice.
"What's our status?"
"We have a squad foraging for additional food and water. Ship repairs are progressing ahead of schedule, but will still take at least a month. Communications should be operational, we just need to get the the emergency generator online. It will be difficult finding a ship in range to pick up the signal, especially with the comm. buoys down.
"We won't have to worry about that. We are going to contact one specific ship. Our only concern is that it may no longer exist."
Aria's head barely turned in the direction of the gruff voice in the shadows, her eyes shifted to the dark silhouette leaning against the rocky outcropping.
"It exists! I refuse to believe she's gone, and I won't have you talking like she's dead."
Her voice was even and emotionless. "Bray, your lapse in judgment will stay between us, they might be forgiven so long as they don't become habitual."
She waved her hand dismissing him. He obediently turned and walked away.
The silhouette turned her head watching the Batarian leave.
"I would appreciate it, if you would try to restrain yourself in front of my subordinates."
"I'll agree to your terms if you agree to mine. I will not have you saying that Liara is dead until I have seen it for myself."
Aria turned to face Aethyta , crossing her arms.
"Why do you even care? So what, she spoke to you for 10 minutes and you feel like she's forgiven you for abandoning her? You have no connection to her, no bond, and you stand here behaving like you've melded with her from birth."
"Has it been so long that you've forgotten what it's like to have a daughter? Have you forgotten that no matter how far… how distant they may be you are still connected, still love them or are you so broken…so empty that you don't remember Liselle? Don't you remember her smile or the way her small hand curled around your finger the first time?"
Her anger rose as she felt the familiar pain of losing her only child.
"If your daughter was so fucking important, then why did you let that bitch take her from you? Why didn't you fight for her? Instead you slunk away and hid in the shadows watching. You surrendered her, my daughter's dead and returned to the Goddess' embrace. The difference is that I never had a choice, death doesn't give you choices."
Aethyta stared long and hard at the other Asari...the anger in her eyes threatening tears.
"I did it for you. I had another daughter, but only have one sister. She threatened to have the Matriarchs back an Eclipse coup to take over Omega...and promised you wouldn't survive. I traded my daughter for my only sister. What would you have me do? There was hope that maybe one day Liara would forgive me….but death...as you said leaves no choices."
Aria's head dropped as she felt the remnant of an almost forgotten emotion, shame. Her sister had always protected her. It didn't matter the threat, her sister stood before it without regret or fear. What had she done to deserve such loyalty? She'd chosen her destiny and never looked back. Her eyes flicked up to scan her sister's face and as always she found forgiveness in those eyes. In that moment she wasn't a mercenary, she wasn't Omega….she was a sister. She placed a hand on her sister's shoulder.
"I would have found a way to survive."
"Your life is not something I would leave to chance."
Aria only nodded in response.
"I...would not chance yours either. I'm...sorry that you have always had to suffer, because of my decisions."
Aethyta smiled despite the pain in her heart.
"I would never ask that you change. The Goddess gifted me with a sister that taught me to follow my heart and damn the consequences. You're the reason I didn't care what people thought about my relationship with Benezia."
Aethyta threw an arm around her sister and looked up at the stars.
"I have faith that she's alive."
Aria looked up and nodded. She'd never had any use for faith or religion, but she was discovering that faith was contagious.
Liara sat staring at the datapad. It had become a blur as she remembered her brief conversation with her father. She was unaware of the arrival of the solider in the hover chair. It wasn't until he placed a hand on her shoulder and gently shook her that she came to her senses.
"You okay, Doc?"
She rubbed her eyes and nodded in response.
"How are you doing?"
His smile lacked its usual confidence.
"I'm alive right…I can't complain. Not to mention, Chakwas rewarded me with a little freedom for putting up with the bone re-generators. What were you thinking about?"
She put down the datapad.
"My father…she was on the Citadel. Hopefully Ashley will find Aethyta alive…"
The Marine's face contorted in confusion.
"Why didn't you go with them?"
The Asari shifted slightly in her chair.
"I have a number of responsibilities here. I must balance what is necessary versus what I want. I cannot be so selfish as to drop everything to satisfy my own desires."
"People do it all the time."
Liara smiled patiently.
"Then why did you not return to Earth when given the opportunity?"
He sheepishly smiled.
"On the Citadel watching the refugees I remember thinking…about a choice I made. It was pointless in the end. If I knew then that Shepard would render the intel useless…" He shrugged, "I made the wrong call. I realized I could save more lives on the Normandy than on Earth. I wanted to go back, but I don't think I could forgive myself for being so selfish."
She nodded in response.
"Yes, that is why I did not go with Ashley. You should also know that choice is pointless. I am aware of the events of Fehl Prime. Do you believe it unrelated that the Reapers did not deploy swarms on Earth? Imagine how different this day would be had the Normandy never left Earth."
She watched the Marine struggle to accept the truth of her words.
"I…Do you really believe the Reaper's knew?"
She didn't hesitate in answering the question.
"The Reaper's managed to indoctrinate many people over the past five years. I have no doubt they knew the Alliance soldiers were immune to the swarms. I was not surprised when they only deployed them against the Turians or do you believe it a coincidence that they were not used against any levo races? "
His smile still didn't radiate confidence, but she knew he was starting to believe.
"Thanks for the pep talk."
"No thanks are necessary. I am an information broker. I was just providing you with information. I will send you a bill for my services later."
He laughed, then suddenly stopped.
"You're joking right?"
She smiled as she stood up.
"Only time will tell. Do you mind keeping him company, while I check on Ashley's progress?"
She could see he was still unsure if she'd been joking. She decided to let him figure it out on his own.
"Take your time, we have a lot to talk about."
She patted his shoulder before heading towards the door.
Garrus paced in front of the bar. It had only been a ten minutes since Javik's report. He imagined could feel the adrenaline beginning to pump through his veins. He suddenly stopped turning towards the human.
"Do you get the feeling we're missing something?"
The woman's raven hair covered her features. Ashley sat at a table playing with a deck of cards she'd found behind the bar. She looked up pushing her hair out of her face.
"Yeah….I can't put my finger on it though. I keep replaying Admiral Hackett's arrival on the Normandy, but I can't figure out why it bothers me."
"I was calibrating the cannon when he came on board. I keep thinking it has something to do with Victus."
Tali didn't look up from her omni tool as she commented.
"I must admit I never understood the need for so many escorts for the leaders of other species. A Quarian Admiral is just another soldier. The don't require bodyguards."
Garrus looked over at Ashley and they spoke in unison.
Tali looked up.
"What about them?"
Ashley was already on the Comm. as she jumped to her feet.
"Javik, stop the keepers from powering up C-sec and get ready for extraction. Cortez, we need extraction. I 'm sending the coordinates now."
The human activated her omni tool and started walking with Garrus beside her. The Quarian jogged to keep up.
"I would appreciate an answer."
Ashley's stride was uninterrupted as she spoke and transmitted the coordinates simultaneously.
"Do you think the Illusive Man would have traveled to the Citadel alone?"
Tali thought about it for only a moment.
"Keelah! He knew the Citadel was required to activate the crucible, even before Thessia. Why did he even bother with the Prothean artifact on Thessia?"
Garrus cursed himself silently for not seeing it sooner.
"He had an idea or a guess, but wanted proof or he didn't want us to know. That's how he works…well worked, before Liara put him down."
"So, what's the plan Ash?"
"If there are Cerberus troops on the station they will be in C-Sec and possibly blending in with the civilians. Any troops in C-Sec would have setup fortifications. We need to fallback and regroup. We come up with a plan to take away their advantage."
Ashley ground her teeth. God help them if they get between me and my family.