Guess I should make a brief Introduction since this is my very first publication. I've really enjoyed what I've been reading on this site a lot over the years so I figured it was my turn to take a shot at it.
Mass Effect is a series near and dear to my heart and I've played through all the games on multiple occasions, one time as a feisty redhead with a thing for turians, another where two engineers, one human and the other quarian, fell madly in love. However, my first ever playthrough is the one that sticks out the most in my mind. I was playing as good old Sheploo who fell for Liara. So with this story, I want to imagine what the trip from Illium to Hagalaz was like for the two of them since, in the game, the scene on Azure ends on a sour note and the subject of their relationship isn't really addressed until Liara defeats the Shadow Broker.
I'm trying to keep some things about Shepard pretty generalized - appearance, paragon/renegade, class, etc., as naturally everyone who's played the game will have had a slightly different Shepard. My hope is that it will more easily allow the reader to imagine their own version of Shepard in the story. However, for the purposes of this story we're going to proceed on the premise that Shepard didn't fool around on Liara with any of the available ME2 love interests, so bear that in mind.
My intent is to focus this story entirely on personal interactions on the Normandy, so there isn't going to be any combat. I am rating this a T for some profanity and sexual themes but there will not be any hanky-panky. If things go over well with this story, well, I'm not sure - maybe there'll be more.
Please write up a review if you like the story. Please write up a review if you hate it. Heck, write a review if you notice any grammatical or spelling errors. Above all though, enjoy the story. Thanks.
Oh, and Mass Effect is the property of EA/Bioware, natch.
The trip from the Crescent Nebula to the Hourglass Nebula was only a single primary relay jump. Including prep-time the Normandy could arrive on the outskirts of the Ossun System in three hours. From the primary relay orbiting Ossun, it was another twenty-one galactic standard hours of trekking across the Hourglass Nebula to the Sowilo System, even at top FTL. And at the end of that journey – Hagalaz.
Liara was not looking forward to the trip. While a part of her was eager to be done with it – it was, after all, a mere 24 hour flight that signified the culmination of more than 2 years of dedicated searching – another part of her was acutely aware that it was 24 long and torturous hours trapped on a ship with Shepard. This new Normandy may have been almost twice the size of the ship they had shared all those years ago but it was nowhere near big enough to allow either of them to successfully avoid each other.
Things had ended poorly on Illium. Liara knew that a great deal of the blame for that rested with her. "I… I can't do this right now. Can we please just focus on finding Feron?" It had been an evasion, one she feared may have sounded to his ears like a rejection. All he had wanted to do was talk – just talk – and she had shut down any chance at conversing. Liara knew that it was painful for both of them but after years of coping, she couldn't imagine any other way she could have handled it, not that such rationalizing lessened the guilt she felt. She had constructed a wall in her mind, built up steadily over the last two years. It had been tall and strong, or so she thought. That wall was the only thing that had allowed her to function. Every time that grief or despair had threatened to overwhelm her, every time that sadness turned to depression and then depression threatened to descend into madness, she would reinforce that wall. She would seek refuge by it, building it up just a little higher, making it just a little bit stronger. Only now she realized precisely how feeble an effort that had been. On Illium, in Shepard's presence, she had come to understand that, for all her efforts, that wall was not one scintilla stronger than it absolutely had to be to maintain her sanity.
Shepard had walked in to her office just days ago and at once she could feel the wall breaking apart. She could feel that mental edifice, the bedrock of her sanity that had for so long allowed her to function, to cope, come tumbling down. She had fought against it. Struggled to maintain that barrier. Because she knew that on the other side of that wall, madness waited for her. Everything that she and Shepard had been through, everything that they had experienced together, and all the love that she had felt, still felt, waited to come pouring through. And she knew beyond any doubt that it would destroy her. As much as his death had torn her apart, this was so much worse. In fleeting moments that danced on the edge of her awareness, moments for which she despised herself but was nonetheless powerless to prevent, she found herself wishing that Shepard was still dead.
Yet, part of Liara was still viscously angry with Shepard. To just come back, to pop back into her life for a few days as though no time had passed. As though nothing had changed. To act as though everything was supposed to simply return to how it had been. "Shepard, I'm glad you're here, but…"
"Why?" He had asked it as though expecting an answer, pausing afterwards. "Are you worried there might be some more terminals you need me to hack?"
She had graduated magna cum laude at the University of Serrice. In all her published studies and scholarly writings she was described as precise and eloquent. One of her peers had even said that her mastery of language would put the scrupulous precision of most Hanar to shame. But words had failed her. Somehow, whether it was the interference of her own feelings or some magnetic effect that Shepard seemed to have on those around him, or perhaps some combination of both, words always failed her around him.
"That… That's not fair! You were dead!"
"I came back!"
"It's not as simple as that! You… you can't just spring back into my life for a few days and… and expect me to just undo two years of misery!"
"Yeah, but apparently a few days is enough to drag me into your personal revenge fantasy! Right? To put my life in danger? Garrus's life? Tali's lfe? A few days is enough for that, right?"
His words had pierced her. She had been wounded many times before. Gunshots, burns and explosive concussions and biotic blasts that had threatened to tear her apart atom by atom. But those words, the most truthful words she had ever heard spoken, cut her straight to the heart. She had hidden behind her wall. She had used him. And on some deep level she realized that she had used him because she knew he cared deeply for her. That he couldn't turn her away. She had used her bondmate, known that his feeling would ally him to her cause. Used him like a thing. And now she blamed him for it. Ration and reason fell away and she exploded at the man she loved. "Goddess! If there was anyone else I thought I could trust," and then she caught herself. The wall was breaking apart. She couldn't deal with it. They had to focus on finding Feron. She had to focus on anything other than them.
She sent him away as the shuttle from the Normandy came in to land. He had walked off to check on Garrus. Perhaps he just couldn't stand to look at her. In that moment, had the option been present, she'd have elected to not look at herself either.
In this moment of reflection, looking at the past, she suddenly realized that she was in reality staring at the white, sterile, and unsettlingly empty space of the Normandy's cargo bay.