Truth or Dare

"So. You lied to me."

Aethyta looked up from her intent consideration of her collection of spirits. "Yeah. I did," she admitted baldly. Plucking a bottle from the small forest, she tilted it toward the admiral, a peace offering. "Bourbon?"

"Hell, yes." Hannah perched on the nearest stool as the asari filled two cracked porcelain teacups and slid one over to her. She cocked an expectant eyebrow. "With a side order of abject confession?"

"You got it. Here's to full disclosure," the matriarch toasted, raising her cup and taking a deep gulp from her drink. Hannah did the same. Although it was still relatively early in the day, the events of the past day or so, to her mind, more than justified an early start...

She's just about got a lock on her surprise at the sudden appearance of two of the Normandy's medical team when Lawson arrives and is greeted with a crushing hug from Dr. Chakwas.

"Oh, Miranda, dear, it's so good to see you safe."

It takes Hannah a moment to remember Rachel's comment about Lawson serving on the Normandy, to rationalize why the two women know one another. "You too, Karin," Lawson returns warmly before turning to the doctor's strikingly beautiful asari companion. "And you, Liara," she says, sweeping the suddenly tearful alien into a hug.

Liara - that's the name of Aethyta's daughter, isn't it? Is it possible? But... why would Aethyta not have told her if her daughter was on the Normandy, if her daughter knew Rachel, had been serving with her? Liara. Liara T'Soni. Of course. Hannah feels more than a little foolish as she realises that she's failed to make the blindingly obvious connection. If it's true, why would Aethyta hide it?

Liara seems agitated, shifting her weight from foot to foot, her gaze roving restlessly around the ante-room as the medics talk shop. Hannah stops listening, intrigued by the asari. She seems very young, tired and worried-looking, yet with a tremendous anticipation in her gaze. She takes a nervous step towards Lawson, dry-washing her hands, and Dr. Chakwas chuckles softly. "All right, Liara, I think you've suffered long enough. If Miranda thinks Shepard is up to visitors..."

"Well, she's sleeping right now, sedated, but she should wake up shortly..." Lawson starts to say, but she's cut off by Liara taking a quick, determined pace towards Rachel's bedroom and then halting, as though she's listening for something. She stills, every nervous motion cast off. The seconds stretch into an uncomfortable silence, and eventually Chakwas takes a step toward the frozen asari.

"Liara?" she queries, grasping her shoulder, and the alien starts quite suddenly.

"She's awake," she says cryptically, walking toward the door to the bedroom.

Hannah's too bemused by the whole scene to even consider trying to stop her. The door opens before Liara takes more than three steps, and Rachel is standing there, body trembling with the effort. Her gaze zeroes in on the asari, and her expression shifts from pained effort to heartbreaking hope in a split second. Hannah has never seen her daughter look that way at anyone, and watches spellbound as Rachel mouths the asari's name, as Liara throws herself forward with a broken sob, as they fall into each other, the asari making sure that it's her knees that crack against the floor, her body that absorbs the impact, wrapping Rachel in a protective embrace as they kiss, a kiss so intense that Hannah feels a blush crawling up her neck just watching.

After a moment, Lawson shakes Liara's shoulder, mutters something to her. The asari stands, lifting Rachel easily. Rachel coils her arms around Liara's neck, submitting to being looked after, and Hannah's astonishment redoubles.

"Go on, Liara," Lawson reassures the asari with a blinding smile. "She's been waiting for you."

Liara turns, her gaze locking with Hannah's, and the profound joy on her tear-streaked face puts the case beyond doubt; Liara is Rachel's lover. "Admiral Shepard," she addresses Hannah, "with your permission?"

Faced with overwhelming evidence that this is the final piece of the puzzle of Rachel's recovery, there's not much Hannah can do but agree. Part of her is hurt that all of these strangers are privy to her ignorance, to a truth that has been kept from her, but it's a small part compared to her relief and joy at knowing that there's a happy ending to all of the pain and heartache of the war within Rachel's grasp. She nods a benediction. "Of course. Rachel clearly needs you." There will be plenty of time to talk about everything afterward.

"Babe?" Aethyta's voice cut through Hannah's reverie.

"Sorry, I drifted for a moment." She leaned on the bar. "So, hit me. Why hide the truth from me?"

"I was trying to protect you. And Liara. And, to a lesser extent, myself." Aethyta tilted her head to one side, considering Hannah carefully. "That first night we talked, I mentioned Liara, gave you enough info to make the connection, and you didn't react at all. I took that to mean that you didn't know about their relationship, and you confirmed it not ten minutes later when you told me about Shepard's ex-boyfriends, how you thought she'd never really been in love. If your little girl had died in that bed, and you'd found out from someone else that she'd met the love of her life but that she hadn't told you, for whatever reason, how would you have felt? I mean, granted, it would be a sunfish's piss in the ocean next to the pain of losing her, but you'd always wonder why she hadn't told you. It would eat at you. You didn't need that. Nobody needs that kind of uncertainty – never knowing why someone you love would choose to keep something important from you is a special kind of hell."

Hannah took another mouthful of bourbon, rolled it around on her tongue contemplatively as she considered the asari's words. "Maybe. Or maybe I'd have preferred to know that she'd at least been happy in her last days, that someone had been there for her." She sighed pensively.

Aethyta grimaced. "Never thought of that. Shit." She rubbed at her forehead, looking chagrined. "I'm sorry, kid. It wasn't my intent to hurt you. I thought I was doing the right thing by you."

Hannah smiled, touched. Her talk with Rachel and Liara earlier had cleared up a lot of the mystery. She could understand why Aethyta had been so close-mouthed given the circumstances, and this further declaration that the matriarch had been trying to help confirmed that her new friend had been motivated only by care, the same care she'd shown so selflessly the night Rachel had nearly died. "It's OK, Aethyta. Can't say I wouldn't have done the same in your shoes." Hannah reached out to pat the asari's shoulder. "Thank you. For everything. For being here for me, for trying to protect me. You're a good friend."

"Thanks, babe. That's sure kind of you." Aethyta sighed irritably. "A thousand years old, and I'm still learning, and fast running out of time to make that fucking learning count. I keep forgetting that humans have a different outlook. For an asari, shielding a friend like that would be a no brainer, and I projected that onto you."

"And yet you had the nerve to call Shepard a... what was it again... oh yes, an anthropocentric bag of dicks," a new voice accused. Hannah turned to see Liara approaching, her gaze locked on her father, an amused smirk playing about the corners of her mouth.

"I was referring to humanity as a whole," Aethyta replied loftily, "though now that I've met a few more I'm thinking of revising that opinion." She tipped a wink to Hannah.

"We're pretty bad at cross-species stuff, I won't deny that," Hannah observed wryly. "Which is why we still get idiots like Terra Firma and Cerberus interfering with those of us who actually think getting to know the other races is a good thing."

"It's a very good thing," Liara agreed with a shy smile.

"When you get the good ones," Aethyta corrected her daughter. "Mind you, you seem to have picked out a pretty good one." She grinned. "You can't ever tell Shepard I admitted that, though. We don't have that kind of relationship."

"As far as I can tell, your relationship seems to consist solely of abuse," Liara remarked dryly.

"Yeah, well, it's a language we both understand. But what are you doing down here? I didn't think we'd have been able to pry you off your wounded hero with a crowbar just yet. Not that she's really fit enough to be any fun right now."

Liara chuckled softly even as she blushed. "Clearly you've never tried telling Karin Chakwas you don't want to do what she says. Not even Shepard gets away with that. Protesting is rather like throwing stones at an avalanche. I was told to "go amuse myself" for an hour while she completes some procedure or other."

"Doctors," Aethyta grinned, "megalomaniacs the lot of 'em. Pull up a seat, Little Wing. What'll you have?"

"Do you have any Scotch?"

"Yeah." Aethyta picked out three bottles. "Lemme see, blended, twelve-year-old single malt, or twenty-year-old single malt?"

Liara studied the labels for a moment. "The twelve year old, please - it's one of the smoky ones."

"Wow. Didn't realise you knew the difference."

"We've been experimenting with Anderson's collection," Liara explained as Aethyta poured her drink. "He had quite an assortment. Special occasions only, of course, but this seems like an appropriate moment to indulge." She accepted her glass and turned on her stool so that she could face both Hannah and Aethyta. "I'm sure you have a lot of questions, Hannah. Please let me answer as many of them as I can," she invited.

Hannah nodded. "I can think of quite a few, but actually, Aethyta, the first one's for you."

"Shoot," Aethyta invited. "I'm done hiding things from you." She grinned cheekily. "I swear by the blue on Athame's divine ass."

"I'm still not clear on why you didn't tell me who your daughter really was. Even if I didn't know about the relationship, I knew Liara T'Soni was one of Rachel's crew. If I'd known the ship you were referring to was the Normandy, we would have had some very different conversations."

"Yeah." Aethyta scratched at her chin, looking expectantly at her daughter. Liara arched one of her eyebrow markings questioningly, then sighed in exasperation.

"Really, Dad?"

"Hey, you're the one who wants to do the bridge building here."

"I'm not the one who lied to Hannah," Liara retorted. There was a tense pause, then the younger alien huffed, "Oh, fine," and turned to Hannah. "At the risk of sounding like history repeating – our relationship is not common knowledge. Very few of Shepard's crew know Aethyta is my father – it wasn't something I chose to share beyond a few trusted confidantes." She shrugged deprecatingly. "Force of habit – one of the earliest lessons you learn in the information trade is never to disclose knowledge if you don't need to. Breaking that conditioning takes a concerted effort, especially when the information is personal."

"Wrex knew, but Samara, Jack, and Grunt didn't," Aethyta picked up, "and I didn't know if Liara even wanted them to know." She fidgeted awkwardly. "I… crap, how to put this… I haven't exactly been a model parent."

"Don't be so hard on yourself," Liara chided. "You had your reasons. And I'm proud to be your daughter."

Aethyta blushed violently. "You... shit, you really know how to sucker punch, don't you? Just like your Mom." She winked at Liara affectionately. "Anyway, I also wasn't sure how much any of those guys knew about your work – and given that Samara's pathologically predisposed towards executing criminals, I thought I'd better not be too free with any information."

Liara shrugged, flicked a quick glance around the rec room. "Oh, they know I'm the Shadow Broker," she said quietly. "Hence why Samara has never revoked her oath of subsumation."

Hannah nearly choked on her drink. "Did I hear that right?" she spluttered. "You're the…" she wasn't sure she should repeat it.

Liara nodded, grimacing. "I am. It's a long story, and I'll gladly tell you it, but not here." She looked around again warily. "Too much chance that someone will walk in and hear something."

"And then we'd have to hide the bodies," Aethyta quipped.

"Does Rachel know?" Hannah asked.

"Yes, of course. She, uh... helped me get the job, as it were," Liara hedged. "During the mission to stop the Collectors. Which is why the crew all know. Including Miranda."

"Well, I figured Lawson knew everything," Aethyta observed. "She's a proper smart-ass, that one. And she and Shepard are pretty tight."

Yes," Liara agreed. "Rachel trusts her, and so do I."

"Miranda – that's Dr. Lawson?" Hannah queried. "Rachel said she'd served with her before."

Liara shot her a pained glance. "In a manner of speaking, I suppose that's true. Miranda worked for Cerberus. She was Shepard's XO on the Collector mission, but more importantly, she was the head of the Lazarus project. Miranda was the one who rebuilt Rachel, brought her back from the dead. And from what Karin says, if she hadn't been on hand to work with the tech she installed, Rachel would have died from her injuries on the Citadel."

Hannah blinked in disbelief. "Lawson's not Alliance?" Christ, is there anyone in this building who is exactly who they say they are?

"No, Admiral, I'm not," Lawson's distinctive voice sounded from behind Hannah as she walked up to the bar. "I'm probably the most wanted woman in Council space."

"Oh, I wouldn't bet on that," Liara murmured into her drink, and Lawson grinned at her.

"Present company excepted." She looked over at Aethyta. "Any chance of a drink, Aethyta?"

"G and T?"

"That'd be great, thanks." The medic smiled ruefully at Hannah. "I'm sorry, Admiral, but the deception was necessary. I am a known Cerberus agent and a wanted criminal. I couldn't take the chance of confiding in you, or someone else hearing something they shouldn't - if I'd been discovered and arrested, Shep would have died. I couldn't risk it. And I was under orders from Admiral Hackett to disclose my identity to no one. Samara, Grunt, Wrex, and Jack were sworn to secrecy, so I nearly had heart failure when I discovered that Aethyta was here as well."

"But you risked exposure and capture to help Rachel? Why?"

"Because I owe her my life," Miranda replied simply, "and my sister's life twice over. Because she helped me when no one else would, or could. Because she's my bloody hero. But mostly, because she's my friend, probably the only real friend I have, and I didn't want to lose her."

Liara reached out and squeezed the medic's shoulder. "She's not your only friend, Miranda."

Hannah turned Miranda to face her, locking gazes with her, trying to process these new revelations. "You sat there," she pointed to the barstool next to her, "not one week ago, and you let me say all that stuff about Cerberus, and you didn't even crack a light?"

Miranda nodded shortly and lowered her gaze. "I'm a very good liar. I've had to be, in my line of work. But I regret the necessity in this instance. And a lot of what you said was justified."

Hannah slid her finger under Lawson's chin and lifted the younger woman's face until she was looking right at her. "So, is what Liara says true? Were you the one who brought my little girl back?"

"Well, I couldn't have done it if Liara hadn't retrieved her body from the Collectors, so..."

"So help me God, Lawson, answer the damn question," Hannah growled in her best quarterdeck voice. "I'm aware of Liara's contribution. Are you the person who brought my little girl back from the dead?"

Miranda nodded fractionally, eyes wary. "Yes."

Hannah hopped down off her stool and threw her arms around the younger woman, hugging her. Miranda stiffened reflexively, but Hannah tightened her hold. "I meant what I said the other night, and knowing that you've saved her life again, at such risk to yourself, just makes it all the more important," she whispered, for Miranda's ears alone. "Thank you, Miranda. Thank you so much."

As she pulled back, she saw Miranda was blushing, her shoulders rigid with tension, her luminous blue eyes burnished with tears. "You're welcome, Admiral."

"Hannah. My friends call me Hannah."

Miranda smiled gratefully. "You're welcome, Hannah."

Hannah looked around the group. "So, in summary, there was essentially a massive conspiracy to keep me in the dark?"

"So it would appear," Liara agreed with a sidelong glance at her father.

Aethyta shrugged deprecatingly. "But only with the best of intentions."

"That's what you said when you bugged my office in Nos Astra," Liara said, but the accusation was amused.

"And your apartment. And your skycar. But speaking of keeping secrets," Aethyta countered, "when were you going to tell me you bonded with Shepard?"

Liara frowned. "How do you know about that?"

"Miranda here was telling me about your fairytale reunion. You could sense her presence in the next room. That's bondmate territory if ever I heard it. So?"

"Given that you disappeared off the face of the galaxy after the Cerberus coup, and that we bonded just before the final push in London, when and how exactly was I supposed to tell you?"

"Oh, come on, Little Wing, don't pretend you didn't know where I was," Aethyta parried.

"I didn't," Liara said quietly, her tone pained. "I thought you might have gone to Thessia, but by the time I got there… well, there was no hope of finding anyone."

Aethyta shook her head soberly. "Shepard told me you were there. You saw Serrice fall?"

Liara nodded silent agreement.

"Fuck... I'm sorry, kid, I didn't mean to open an old wound. So… you bonded with Shepard just before the battle in London..." Aethyta came back to the point, "as in the night before? The day before? Minutes before?"

"Does it matter?" Hannah thought she detected an edge to Liara's voice in that, borne out by Aethyta raising both hands in a pacifying gesture.

"Woah, now, don't get your panties in a bunch. I'm sure you knew what you were doing, it's just..." she eyed Liara carefully, as though weighing up the potential for an explosion.

"Just what?" Liara prompted dangerously.

Aethyta took a deep breath. "You're a little young to be thinking about bonding, and I'm just concerned that maybe you jumped into something deeper than you anticipated because your emotions were running high. Not just for your sake, but for Shepard's as well." She reached out to grip her daughter's hand as the younger asari blushed.

"Can it be undone, if they decided it was a mistake?" Hannah asked curiously.

"No," Aethyta replied, her gaze never leaving Liara's face. "Breaking a bond causes brain damage – it can even kill in extreme cases." Aethyta leaned over the bar to press a kiss to her daughter's forehead. "That Shepard loves you as much as you love her is apparent to everyone, kid, even if it is all a little too civilized for my taste. All I want to know is that you understand what you've let yourself in for. And that your bondmate understands it too."

Liara nodded slowly. "We do. We'd talked about it beforehand, I'd warned her of what it entailed, and we'd agreed we wanted to do it. The timing was... not ideal, and emotion certainly drove me, but..." she shrugged, looked up at her father, then held out her hand.

Aethyta nodded, grasping Liara's hand firmly. "Embrace eternity," she muttered.

Hannah watched in fascination as both asari's eyes flooded with inky black. Silence fell, and for about fifteen seconds they remained locked in position, breathing without stress, but otherwise immobile, and then Liara blinked, and her eyes cleared to crystalline blue. Aethyta, similarly restored, nodded soberly as she regarded her child. "Damn," she breathed, "do you ever have it bad."

Liara smiled. "I know," she agreed serenely. "And that's just given me an idea." She turned to Hannah. "I have a request to make of you, Hannah."

"OK," Hannah replied a little warily. "What is it?"

"Would you let me share some of my memories with you?"

Hannah pointed at Aethyta. "Like that, you mean? In a… meld?"

Liara nodded earnestly. "Yes. You were so very kind to me earlier, and your acceptance of my relationship with Rachel is precious to me. You have extended me a rare trust, and I wish to be thought worthy of it. That will take time, I know, but I would like to share a few moments of my life, show you what your daughter means to me. And it might answer the rest of your questions more quickly."

Aethyta nodded encouragement, and Hannah took a deep breath. "OK, then. Do it."

"That's exactly what Rachel said the first time we did this," Liara recalled with a smile. Stepping closer, she cupped Hannah's face lightly in her hands. Her fingers were cool and gentle. "Look into my eyes," the asari instructed, and Hannah focused, peering into the crystalline depths of Liara's unblinking gaze, seeing the first wisps of black start to dance within the blue. "Take slow deep breaths," Liara continued, her voice soft yet commanding. "Imagine a place where you are at peace, Hannah, a place of tranquility and happiness. Relax and remember your joy." Hannah tried to obey, relaxing, remembering her wedding day, feeling a strange pressure at the back of her head. "Can you see it?" Liara asked, and Hannah nodded, fixing her memory on Danny's adoring smile. "Good, now… embrace eternity!"

Liara's eyes snapped to sudden jet black. A warm sensation seemed to permeate Hannah's awareness, and for a moment, she had a strange impression of being two people, having two bodies, looking at herself through her own eyes. And then the duality faded, Danny slipped away, and she was transported...

...Shepard smiles at me, a genuine, encouraging grin. "That's great, Li. Perfect, in fact."

"Li?"

"Yeah, um," Shepard looks slightly abashed, "sorry. Human thing - we have a tendency to shorten names or give nicknames to close friends and associates."

"Oh. So that's why you call Chief Williams Ash, and Officer Vakarian... G?"

"Exactly. If it bothers you, I'll try not to do it." She gives a one-shouldered shrug. "No big deal."

I feel my cheeks heat with embarrassment, but my soul is glowing at the thought of someone considering me enough of a friend to give a nickname to. Especially Shepard, who is so generous, and brave, and...Goddess, I'm making such a fool of myself, and I need to say something..."I... uh, thank you, Commander. I don't mind." That doesn't do it justice. I'm thrilled...

... Shepard's arms close around me, and my stricken, grieving soul finds solace in the close warmth of her body, the protective strength of her arms, the clean smell of her freshly laundered sweatshirt, and tang of citrus that I assume is from her bodywash. I am protected here, secure, sheltered from the terrible truth of my mother's death by my friend, my guardian. Shepard will keep me safe...

..."I want what's between us to flourish..." Shepard's words echo in my tangled thoughts as the Normandy guns her engines, getting under way for the Mu relay. Alone in my little lab, I cannot get Shepard out of my head, her kind smile, her courage, the trust she so readily places in me. The warm silk of her cheek beneath my lips, her trembling fingers caressing my neck in the aftermath of Virmire, when we grieved for Kaidan together, and the breath-stopping anticipation of our near miss not six hours ago, the moment of complete connection that Joker so unwittingly destroyed. Goddess help me, I think I have fallen in love.

"Only when we're both ready," she'd said. I knew from those words that she was ready. And now I know that I am too. I will not wait any longer. I have to tell her how I feel...

...Rachel pulls me tenderly against her armoured chest, arms locking about my shoulders as I bury my face in her hair. "It's all right," she soothes. Two years of heartache are banished by her touch, her intimate tone. My love, lost and found. I want her, I've missed her. Before I realise it I've brushed my lips against hers. Guiltily, I pull back. I want so very desperately for her to reclaim me, but she has now witnessed the full measure of the changes her death wrought in me. I daren't expect her to simply accept me, however much my heart desires it.

Anguish swamps me, stealing my breath, blurring my vision with tears. "It's been two years," I force out. Goddess, please, she is the only person in this universe that truly matters to me - I must be strong enough to allow her to choose her path, even if that path is not with me. "I don't... We're different people. You have your mission..." She pulls me in, stops my babbling with a kiss, and I collapse into her embrace. Her kiss is deep, passionate, confident. Loving. Her presence surrounds me, overwhelms me, shatters my doubts. She wants me, as I am, flawed and changed. She wants me. I am hers...

... Rachel's lying in bed in the medbay, eyes dull from the analgesic Karin has administered. She frowns as she tries to squeeze my hand but finds her grip too weak to make the gesture effective. "M'OK, Li," she murmurs. "Don't warp Garrus through the bulkhead. Wasn't his fault."

I force a smile; she needs encouragement and support, and I will not burden her with my concern. My fear of losing her is my own problem to deal with. "I won't. The fuel refinery had to be secured. Besides, I'm fairly certain I know who needs to be warped through the bulkhead, and it isn't Garrus."

She manages a lopsided grin. "You wouldn't, ahh..." she flinches with a twinge of pain, "hit an invalid now would you?"

I lean in close, letting biotic energy wreath my fingers as I place my hand just above her cheek. "Of course not," I whisper into her ear. "In fact, I promise not to lay a finger on you."

Rachel laughs, then winces again. "Ow, don't make me laugh," she pleads. I draw back, and she smiles up at me. "I love you, Li," she offers spontaneously.

"I love you too," I assure her…

...Rachel is sleeping, leaning against me, back pressed against my breasts, head tipped back against my shoulder, my arms wrapped securely around her waist. She's worn out from the day's desperate actions and by the residual pain from Leviathan's brutal invasion of her mind. The meld and massage have quieted her thoughts enough to permit rest, and I breathe a soft prayer of thanks, grateful to have her safe in my arms, for now. Her body feels warmer, a reassuring contrast to the icy feel of her skin when she stopped breathing on the deck of that damned wreck. Burying my nose in her hair, I inhale deeply, pulling the beguiling scent of oranges, cinnamon and Rachel into my lungs. If I could stop time, stop our march towards the brewing confrontation with the Reapers, I would. I could remain here, content, forever...

The memories flickered and blurred, each imparting a precious moment, each woven through with the shining common thread of Liara's deep love for Rachel. Hannah shivered, blinking to try and clear her vision, marshal her thoughts as the connection broke. "Woah," she breathed, and she felt strong hands grip her shoulders.

"Easy. Take deep breaths," Aethyta's voice instructed from behind her. "Move slowly, you might be a little dizzy." Hannah obeyed, sucking in a few deep breaths, unable to take her eyes from Liara's face, from the earnest look of hope the young asari wore.

"Why..." Hannah fought down the disconcerting feeling that her voice was all wrong, "why did you show me that, Liara?" Tears stung her eyes as she gripped the maiden's hands. "You - those are your feelings, they're so..." She took another steadying breath. "You didn't need to do that, to share such private emotions - I believed you when you told me that you loved Rachel." She was overwhelmed; she knew how much she loved her daughter, but to be able to experience someone else's feelings for Rachel in such an intimate and personal way... it was almost unfathomable.

Liara squeezed her hands in reply. "For asari, among friends and family, sharing emotions is commonplace. It creates trust, builds relationships, conveys meaning, without the barrier that words can often create. I cannot lie in my memories, nor distort the truth of them with well-meaning euphemisms. While I can control what I choose to show you, I cannot manipulate it. I wanted you to see..." Liara blushed, suddenly looking very vulnerable. "It is what I would have shown my own mother, were she still alive." She composed herself with a deep breath. "Rachel loves you very much - as I said earlier, your good opinion means the world to her. So perhaps I am simply being a little selfish, but... I want you to think well of me, for her sake, and for my own."

Hannah pulled the asari into a tight hug, moved more than she could express with simple words. "I think you've made a pretty good start there, kiddo," she offered. "Thank you for trusting me with your emotions." Thank you for making Rachel so happy, for loving her as much as you do. She deserves it.

"Thank you for accepting them, and me," Liara replied. "I am honoured to be considered part of your family."

"You're very welcome," Hannah grinned as she released her grip. "And I'm honoured to be considered part of yours." A thought struck her. "Speaking of which, Aethyta, does this bond thing between the kids make us in-laws?"

Aethyta nodded slowly. "Yeah, I guess it does. Well, shit. That's a real damn shame, ain't it?"

Liara twisted round to stare at her father. "Dad..." she began reprovingly.

"Can it, Little Wing. This is none of your business," Aethyta cut her off, and she turned to Hannah, an evil smirk tugging the corners of her mouth as she leaned on the bar and beckoned the human closer. "Like I said, a real damn shame. Babe."

"Oh?" Hannah arched an eyebrow and mirrored Aethyta's stance, folding her arms on the bar and leaning in close, fighting not to crack a grin and give the whole thing away as she saw the dumbstruck expression on Liara's face and Lawson jamming her knuckles into her mouth to stifle her laughter. She closed the gap till her forehead was practically touching the matriarch's. "Why's that? Sweetheart?" she drawled.

Aethyta blew her a kiss. "Because, with all this excitement going on around here today, would you believe... I forgot to clean the bar."

THE END

A/N: A heartfelt thank you to everyone who has read, reviewed, favourited and followed along. It means the world to me to that you guys enjoy reading my stuff and that you take the time to help me make it better... Till next time!