Part 3

*** [ ME3-DLC ] ***

Liara's eyes swept over the wreckage and felt a twist in her stomach. She wondered what the purpose of the Citadel really was, whether it was built by Leviathan's people or by the Reapers, or whether it was created during one of the many cycles between then and now. So little of what they 'knew' about the past was fiction created by the Reapers, or had been concluded on with only a fraction of the information they needed.

Regardless, the entire place stank of death for her now. Both the death that had occurred only weeks before and the death that was to come. She frowned deeply.

"Little Wing?"

Liara's head jerked up and she looked back to see Matriarch Aethyta leaning over the bar at Apollo's Café in the Presidium. She had her brow pinched and curved upwards, looking concerned.

"Sorry," said Liara. She pointed over at the large piece of the upper balconies that was sticking up out of the pond and hanging slightly over the Commons. A swarm of bug-like workers were methodically cutting it up and carrying off the pieces. "The Keepers are cleaning up the mess from the Cerberus attack." She shook her head. "They shouldn't even bother. They won't finish before..." she trailed off.

"Before this whole place goes up in smoke?"

Liara turned fully to face Aethyta and look her father in the eyes. "You believe me, don't you?"

Aethyta stared at her then made a small smile. "I do," she said simply. "Though I am slightly less inclined to believe you had a fever dream than perhaps the rest of the matriarchs."

Liara sighed. "Or Shepard, apparently."

"Oh, the lover doubts you?" said Aethyta.

"She believes the Reapers are trying to indoctrinate me," Liara said, slightly scowling. "Or implied as much."

"You really think she believes that?" asked Aethyta.

Liara said nothing.

"What did she say?" pressed Aethyta.

"She said she'd rather not change history if I come from a future where we win against the Reapers," said Liara.

"That certainly sounds like she believes you," said Aethyta. "Though her capacity for self-sacrifice is more boundless than I thought."

"She always sacrifices what she wants," said Liara, loudly. "She never takes when she can give. She won't even save her own life if her death can do more!" Her biotics briefly flared up in frustration, startling some of the other patrons of the café.

Aethyta didn't flinch. She reached out and touched her daughter gently on the shoulder. Liara looked up at her with widened eyes.

"I think you're more like her than you'd care to admit," said the Matriarch.

Liara frowned at her father and then sighed. She shook her head and let the blue corona dissipate. "I want things for myself," she said firmly.

"Clearly," smiled Aethyta. "And I imagine Shepard does too. But she – but the both of you have mountains of responsibilities that you can't always just shirk off for a date. Or did you live on that giant flying fortress for months alone because you wanted to work on your meditation?"

Liara sighed. "I wasn't completely alone, I had Feron with me." She paused. "Occasionally."

"While Shepard sat still, with nothing at all to do on Earth, awaiting a trial," said Aethyta. She crossed her arms and looked at her daughter. "It seems to me, that you had your share of opportunities as well, and chose to avoid them."

"If I had not researched the Prothean Archive on Mars we would never have—"

"But you didn't know that," interrupted Aethyta. "You made a choice to pursue that knowledge, within the same system as Shepard, because you believed it was more important than making time with your lover."

"I—" started Liara but she hesitated and her eyes began to crinkle at the sides. She let out a anguished sigh and buried her head in her hands on the top of the bar. "The universe hates me."

Aethyta quietly laughed and then put her had on Liara's shoulder, gently patting her on the back. "Believe it or not, little wing, you are young, and this is not a situation unique to you."

Liara lifted her head slightly and looked at Aethyta evenly. "You fought ancient menacing machines from the dawn of time when you were young as well?"

"Well, it certainly seemed that way at times," said Aethyta with a grin.

Liara buried her head again.

"I mean that I struggled to find time with Benezia too," said Aethyta. "All people with responsibility have to fight to find time to spend with their lovers. Sometimes you fight tooth and nail to get that time. And sometimes you just ... well, you go your separate ways and find new people that interest you."

"I'm not leaving Shepard," Liara said, muffled, into her arms.

"Yes, but she's leaving you," said Aethyta.

Liara's head snapped up at looked at her father in shock.

"Don't be surprised, you're the time traveler," said Aethyta with a warning look. "She doesn't want to, but she is, and you have to see this as the way of things or you'll be right back here crying on my bar again in six months."

"I don't think the Presidium even exists in my time," said Liara.

"Not the point," said Aethyta. She took a deep breath and tried to look sympathetic. "Even if you were to pull her, kicking and screaming away from the final battle and lock her away to keep her safe, it will eventually end. With your death or hers. Humans are fiery balls of passion but they are a brief candle to the Asari and you can't believe it's going to be any different with Shepard."

"She came back from the dead already," said Liara.

"And you should thank the goddess that you got more time with her after that and not count on it happening again," said Aethyta. She struck her finger down on the surface of the bar. "This is the time to be living. Any time you are together with her. Because you don't know what tomorrow will bring. Time travel or not."

Liara's eyes were wet as she stared. "So many died."

"And I imagine many lived," sat Aethyta. "So which among them would you trade for Shepard? I know you'd give yourself but would you give me?"

Liara looked abruptly away.

"Oh, I see," said Aethyta. "Me too, huh?" She looked off over the Presidium towards the ponds and sighed. "I wonder if Benezia waits for me."

"Father you can leave the-" said Liara urgently but was interrupted.

"Oh, don't get that way," Aethyta said with a shake of her head. "If I must endure the fall of Thessia with dignity I will embrace my own end in the same way."

"But you don't have to die," pleaded Liara.

"And instead you'd like me to run?" asked Aethyta. "Leave people behind who have no chance in order to save myself? And then I must live on afterwards?" She shook her head. "When you reach your Matriarch days you'll understand better, Little Wing."

"I'll never understand suicide," said Liara.

"It's not suicide, it's dying as you lived," said Aethyta. "Contrary to what Cereberus scientists might believe, we all must die eventually. It's only how and where that we can control. If I flee and die in an exploding shuttle or from a Reaper attack on Illium, how is that better than staying here, where I know people are in danger, and fighting on their behalf?"

"Because you lose," said Liara.

"Then I'll lose with dignity," said Aethyta. "And I'll lose knowing my precious daughter lives, and still lives, six months from now." She reached out and took Liara's hands. "I also hope that you try and keep yourself alive for even longer."

Liara was silent and stared at Aethyta's hands covering her own.

"Where is Shepard now?" asked the Matriarch.

"She was talking to the council and then she was going to meet Joker in the Lower Wards," said Liara quietly.

"Then go to her," said Aethyta. "Enjoy what you have, now, while you have it."

Liara frowned but looked up at her father. She slowly nodded.

Then her Omni-tool lit up.

"Liara? Liara!" came Joker's voice, filled with panic. "Are you near the Lower Wards? Shepard and I just got shot at!"