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Working With the Enemy

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Shepard had certainly enjoyed the night and morning alone with Liara, but she knew at some point it had to end and she needed to refocus on the mission. Once they had departed Illium, her first stop on the Normandy was to visit Samara; Miranda had messaged they had placed her in the Deck 3 Observation Lounge because the Justicar had wanted 'a room that looked out on the great empty void.' As the doorway opened and Shepard stepped in, she noticed the Justicar sitting in the yoga Lotus position, facing out to the stars, obviously meditating. As she approached, she realized Samara was holding a revolving biotic sphere in place, floating in space in front of her chest. Not wanting to disturb her, Shepard took a seat and stared out the same window, contemplating all the missions she'd had that had taken her to many of those stars.

It was not long before Samara spoke. "Shepard. I've spent much of the last four hundred years on my own; it is nice to have a colleague to chat with." She dispersed her biotics and the blue sphere vanished. "I may be rusty at it, however. If you are patient, I would love to talk."

Shepard moved from the lounge chair to take a place on the floor next to Samara. "I didn't have much time to speak with you when we met. How much do you know about our mission?"

Samara flashed a brief smile, "I know you seek to destroy the Collectors and that I've sworn an oath to follow you. That is enough for me."

Shepard was surprised, "Aren't you curious? Don't you want to know why we're after them?

Samara spoke in all earnestness. "When you live by a code that compels you to harsh action, you learn the dangers of curiosity. If I must kill a man because he has done wrong, do I really wish to know that he is a devoted father? A loving husband?"

Shepard furrowed her brow in thought before answering. "I think you do need to consider those things. I don't see it as so black and white; their good deeds may outweigh the bad they have committed. You need to be able to weigh their total worth before committing them to a permanent solution such as death for a single event. If you don't mind, I'd like to know more about the criminal you were pursuing on Nos Astra."

Samara looked down to the floor briefly before looking back up, but she stared straight ahead and did not look at the commander as she answered. "I hope you will understand if I wish to avoid this topic. It is deeply tied to my code and beliefs. It is very... personal."

Shepard nodded her head in acceptance, "Alright. I can respect that, but I do need to know if it will impact the mission."

Samara was very brief. "It will not."

Shepard nodded again. "Ok. I'll take your word for it. What do you think of Cerberus?"

Samara was much more forthcoming on that topic, "I have heard rumors, but learned long ago to form my own impressions. This is the first time I will have worked with them. I will judge Cerberus by your actions, Commander."

Samara was surprised when Shepard laughed and set the record straight. "If I wear a coat made of varren hide, does it make me a varren? This is a Cerberus vessel, but I am not Cerberus, nor is this a Cerberus mission; as far as I'm concerned, it's a Spectre mission. I have first-hand knowledge of the things Cerberus has done, and I classify them as terrorists. I don't trust them, but they are the only ones willing to provide me the resources I need to accomplish my mission, so for now they are uncomfortable allies."

Samara smiled and looked at Shepard, "Then it is good I swore my oath to you and not to Cerberus. I work for you, Shepard; our methods may be different, but our goals are not."

Shepard stood up and stepped back. "Unless you have something for me, I should get back to work and let you return to your meditations."

Samara closed her eyes for a brief moment and bowed her head to Shepard. "Perhaps I will have questions after we become a bit better acquainted. For now, I have nothing. Thank you for coming to speak with me... it has been my pleasure, Commander.

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Shepard's next stop was Miranda's office. When the door opened, it appeared as if Miranda and Jacob were having something of a heated discussion, but when the commander told them she could come back, Jacob just glared at the XO and stalked out, saying, "No, we're done here, Commander."

Shepard watched Jacob's back as he hurriedly left the room and the doors closed behind him, then turned and looked questioningly at Miranda. Miranda shook her head, "Sorry, Commander. You shouldn't have seen that. We had... something... once, and Jacob is trying to find closure on some issues. I guess my idea of closure and his are not the same, but don't worry... it won't be a problem."

Shepard looked skeptical, but let it slide. "Ok, but let me know if something changes... before it becomes a problem." With a nod from Miranda, the commander continued, "You have the draft of what you are going to send to TIM?"

"Yes, Shepard, I do. I decided that with all the reporting avenues he has, staying as close to the truth as possible is the best policy; but I'm not giving him full details on all our conversations. I am telling him about our conversation after Horizon, and then your 'slip' when talking to Ms Parasini about Liara being your bondmate. I'll tell him I put those two together, and figured out that if we want to continue to get any semblance of cooperation from you, instead of trying to drive a wedge between the two of you, we need to figure out how to get your relationship on the road to recovery." Miranda handed Shepard the datapad with the draft report on it and smiled, "All to provide 'sufficient motivation' for you to complete the mission, of course."

Shepard's jaw dropped as she read the missive. "You're asking him for help in finding the location of the Shadow Broker?" She looked at Miranda in amazement.

Miranda shrugged. "You know what they say; in for a penny, in for a pound. My guess is he'll provide it, secretly hoping T'Soni is killed in the attempt..." Miranda saw a flash of anger cross the commander's face, "but, obviously, we'll make sure that doesn't happen. Jacob and I clearly won't be able to help, but you have plenty of capable agents on board now. I wouldn't take the Justicar, either."

"I won't necessarily have to take anyone. Liara does have a team of commandos, as you know." Shepard looked at Miranda thoughtfully. "Though I'll probably take Garrus and Kasumi; a sniper and an infiltrator can compliment any squad." Shepard shook her head and paused for a moment, then looked at the operative, "Thank you, Miranda. I misjudged you. I'm sorry."

"No worries, Commander. It's Cerberus who misjudged you. We should have known that bloody Commander Shepard wouldn't be so easily put into a box." Miranda's smile took away any affront or sting that comment may have carried.

Shepard grinned and shook her head. "Alright, Lawson. Get Mordin and gear up. We leave in an hour to go find our assassin. I'll meet you at the airlock." From the look on Miranda's face, Shepard knew she needed more. "Don't worry... I'm staying on board. Got some things to unpack in my room." Shepard left the XO's office with a smile on her face and a spring in her step that Miranda hadn't seen before. The operative smiled in response to the observation. Yes, T'Soni is exactly who that woman needs.

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As the team stepped off the Normandy, they were met by a surprisingly well dressed and well spoken Krogan. "Excuse me. My sources indicate you were in a warehouse recently. Did you by any chance forward a questionable shipping note to a Mr Thax?"

Shepard's hand rested casually on her pistol, but she did not draw it as she spoke. "It looked suspicious, so I passed it on..."

The Krogan nodded. "I'm a representative for Mr Thax. He's very grateful to you." Shepard's hand dropped to her side as the Krogan continued. "Please accept this as a gift for bringing the... shipping irregularities... to his attention."

Shepard willingly accepted the credit chit and handed it to Miranda, then turned back to the Krogan. "Do you need or want help finding the person who cheated Mr Thax?"

The polite Krogan shook his head, "Thank you, but that won't be necessary. Mr Thax will be making a series of polite calls. Hopefully a confrontation will not be required."

Shepard smiled, "Good luck with that. Always better if issues can be solved without violence. Let me know if I can be of any further assistance."

Before he left, the Krogan nodded one last time and acknowledged the commander's offer. "Noted. Have a pleasant day."

As the Krogan turned and walked away, Mordin chimed in. "Surprisingly eloquent and polite. Krogan may have hope yet."

Shepard chuckled lightly and the group made their way to the transportation dock to meet Seryna. On the way, Shepard had to stop and listen in awe; today was the day for surprises and there was a Krogan spouting love poetry, with a very agitated Asari trying to figure out what to do with him. Shepard's curiosity took over, and she couldn't help but speak to the Asari to try and find out what was going on. Her name was Ereba, and she apologized profusely for the actions of the Krogan, hoping he would just go away and stop annoying customers. She was so flustered, she was eager to tell her story and get advice from anyone who was willing. Turned out Ereba had been dating Charr for a while, but they were on a break because he had wanted to get serious, and she wasn't sure what to do. Shepard had to laugh when the Asari said he was a great guy to date, but didn't know if he was long-term material. "Krogans live long lives. It's not like dating a human, where you just stick it out for a century until they die. Uh... oh! No offense!" The Asari blushed when she realized what she had just said.

Shepard smirked and shook her head, telling the Asari she needed to make a decision or Charr was going to drive everyone crazy with his poetry. When she admitted to loving him, Shepard told her the decision was already made, she just needed to realize it. "He obviously dotes on your every move, and you love him. What else is there? You should give him a chance. You're over here worrying about it instead of enjoying the love he's willing to give you. I'd say that's a pretty rare gift from a Krogan."

The Asari looked at the commander for a moment before responding. "I know. Thanks. I appreciate it. I'll talk to him and let him know so he won't bother any more customers." She was smiling as she walked away to go talk to Charr.

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Seryna was waiting when they arrived and they immediately departed for the towers. She filled them in on the way, giving them all the data she had on the towers but with a warning that they may have changed some of the protocols after she was fired. She gave them one last warning as they jumped out of the skycar. "Don't linger too long; they'll be here to greet you soon enough."

Seryna wasn't kidding. The skycar hadn't even gotten off the rooftop yet when the team saw unarmed Salarian workers fleeing before security mechs and being gunned down for apparently no reason. The Normandy team made quick work of the two security mechs and their Fenris dogs. One of the Salarians survived and told them a horrid tale of Nassana's ruthlessness, their only crime being not getting out of the building fast enough. After treating the Salarian's injuries, the team got in the elevator and started their climb to the tower bridge.

When the elevator topped out and they stepped out, the floor was crawling with mercs. Shepard immediately shifted gears into Vanguard mode and began her 'crash and blast' routine that Miranda had gotten accustomed to, protecting the commander's flank best she could. Mordin had yet to see her in full attack mode, so was initially caught off balance, but he recovered quickly and the team started to develop a rhythm. Miranda was warping shields, Mordin burning armor, and the commander charged in and sent enemies flying. Shepard worked at taking down an opposing Vanguard and had to recover quickly to fight off an encroaching Fenris mech. The Fenris charged in and knocked the commander back a couple of steps as she blasted it with her shotgun. Before she was able to step away, a merc launched a rocket at her, dropped her shields and staggered her so she could not retreat from the Fenris. As the Fenris 'died' at her feet, it exploded; with her shields down, Shepard took the full brunt of the explosion and she collapsed to her knees as her world went gray. With shaking hands, she activated her medigel dispenser and waited for her vision to clear.

Miranda cussed under her breath and warped the rocket merc into nonexistence, moving to stand protectively over the commander as she recovered. "Mordin! Shepard's down! Protect her right flank while I handle frontal assaults!"

Mordin immediately swung out to the right and promptly incinerated two mercs trying to swing to the exposed flank and Miranda blasted away with her SMG, forcing the remaining two mercs to seek cover. She wanted to access her supply of hypo-spray for Shepard, but the mercs were closing too fast for Miranda to spare any of her focus.

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Across Illium, Liara had just locked up the office and was turning to start down the stairs when she felt a crushing weight in her chest and her vision blurred. She staggered, and stumbled against the vacant assistant's desk for support while she tried to catch her breath. Riana had already advanced down the stairs to make sure the way was clear when she heard the unusual noise behind her. Stopping and glancing back up the stairs, she saw Liara in obvious distress and bolted up to her. Riana looked with great concern at the very pale Asari before her, "Mistress! What ails you?"

Liara swallowed hard and shook her head in confusion, "I don't..." Realization dawned before she finished speaking and instead of saying she didn't know, she exclaimed, "Goddess! Shepard!" She immediately pulled up a tracking program on her omnitool and it showed her Shepard's location and vitals from the data feed Liara had installed in her armor.

Riana looked at Liara quizzically, wondering how she could have possibly known the commander was in trouble. Liara sat at the desk and watched the data feed roll across her display and contemplated what was happening; if she could feel Shepard, then it made sense that Shepard could feel her. From the tracking program, she realized the team was halfway across Nos Astra, and there was no way to get to her in time to assist with the current crisis, so she concentrated on sending supportive thoughts at the commander. I give you my strength, my love. Take from it what you need. Liara monitored the vitals on her omnitool and was relieved as she watched them eventually level out.

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Shepard felt a push at the back of her mind and was at first disoriented, but then realized what it was and smiled in spite of the situation. She took a deep breath and opened her mind to let warmth and strength flow into her body and soul; her hands quit shaking and her vision cleared almost immediately. After just a couple of moments, she stood up and surprised even Miranda with the extent and speed of her recovery. Looking the XO in the face and grinning, she said, "Let's finish this!" With that, she pulled her biotics and charged; one merc and two mechs later, they were at a doorway that opened up to the next section of the building. It was a repeat of every other section they had moved into. A few mercs, a few mechs and they moved into a long glass hallway that took them to the next section. It became painfully obvious to Shepard just how much money Nassana Dantius had made on her illegal activities with the size of the mercenary army they had to face. Mechs and mercs didn't come cheap, and there were a lot of both! Every room was a battle and finally after fifteen minutes of constant fighting they caught a break. They had cleared the entire floor and now had to take an elevator. Shepard was pretty sure it wasn't going to come down empty, so she encouraged everyone to get into cover so they could ambush whoever showed up. However, before she called the elevator down with whatever enemies inside, Shepard typed a very short omni-direct message to Liara. Felt you. Thank you. Better than medigel any day. Love. She concentrated on the light meld in the back of her mind and pushed thoughts of love and affection as she pressed the send key on her omnitool.

With everyone in cover, Shepard hit the elevator call button. When the doors opened, it wasn't as bad as Shepard expected it to be; it was only a Krogan and two mercs. Between Miranda's warp, Mordin's incinerate and Shepard's shotgun carnage, the Krogan was down in the first volley. The first merc went down quickly, and Shepard finished the second with a quick crash and blast. They were on the elevator in no time and headed upward once more. When the doors opened, there was an Eclipse trooper on the radio talking about not hearing from a number of their teams. Shepard was surprised Krios had left the guy standing because he wasn't very observant. The team of three walked right up on him, and he had no idea they were there until Shepard spoke to him. He wasn't very forthcoming with information, because he had none to give. Thane Krios was very good at what he did, and even with an entire merc army, they couldn't find him within the confines of only two office buildings. Shepard actually felt sorry for the merc and told him to leave quickly, before she changed her mind, and he wasted no time departing the area. As the team started to move through the new level, they actually found the datadisk with the Kirosa genetic record; there was going to be one happy Salarian when Shepard returned it to him in the shipping office.

First up was a huge warehouse style room with more of the standard fare of mercs, mechs and Fenris dogs. After cleaning house, they opened a locked storage room and released yet more workers. Shepard had to wonder; they had apparently been locked in by Thane, and the commander was curious as to the assassin's motivations. It seemed he had gone out of his way to avoid civilian casualties. Shepard sent them toward the exit and moved on through the warehousing floor. On the far side of the room, a ramp climbed to the next level. At the base of the ramp was a communications terminal and Shepard heard a familiar voice... that of Nassana Dantius. She was a bit panicked, wondering where everyone was and looking unsuccessfully for a report from her mercs. Shepard was more than happy to respond to her inquiries. "I'm afraid your men aren't able to respond, Nassana."

The team ascended the ramp, wiped out the few mercs and mechs at the top, and realized they were finally at the bridge level. The bridge itself was interesting; there was a number of mercs, including two Vanguards. It should have been more challenging, but Shepard's 'crash and blast' was particularly effective because the bridge was so narrow. Her encounters were more crash and fall, because the force of her collision tossed her enemies from the bridge and there was no need to shoot them as they plunged multiple stories to the ground. The biggest problems were the two large automated rocket targeting drones sitting in the upper stories of the second tower. Shepard used the same strategy on those as she used on the big Krogan in the elevator; combined fire. Using Mordin's incinerate and Miranda's overload, Shepard was able to finish them off with her SMG loaded with incendiary ammo; really would have been nice to have Garrus along. His powerful sniper would have taken them down in just a few shots.

The end was near; the team had been in a near constant gun battle for almost a full hour as they had worked their way up through the Dantius Towers and they were all tired. Just two more Vanguards once they reached the second tower and they were finally at Nassana's door. As they walked in, Shepard quickly surveyed the situation; Nassana had only held back two mercs and her personal commando with her in the control room, though Shepard imagined they were probably her top three agents. Even so, they all looked very nervous when the supposedly dead Spectre walked into the room. Nassana spun around and spoke first. "Wait. Before you kill me, just tell me who hired you."

Shepard just shook her head in disgust. "I'm not an assassin, Nassana. But I am looking for one."

Nassana was skeptical, "You break in here and decimate my security just to find the person who's here to kill me? What are you playing at, Shepard?"

The commando suddenly interrupted, stating she heard something. Nassana wasn't happy; cursing and telling her guards to check the other entrances. She spun back and pointed at Shepard, "You... stay put. When I'm finished dealing with this nuisance, you and I are going to..."

Nassana didn't finish as a Drell, who Shepard assumed was Thane Krios, dropped from the ceiling and promptly dispatched the two mercs, the first by twisting and breaking his neck, the second with a quick spin and punch to the throat, caving in his windpipe. He used the second merc as a shield as he drew his weapon and shot the solo commando at close range. He then moved like lightening and grabbed Nassana, spun her around and planted the barrel of the same pistol into Nassana's chest. He pulled the trigger and then gently leaned Nassana across the large control console she was standing behind and crossed her arms and hands carefully over her chest in death. Krios immediately holstered his pistol and folded his hands in prayer. Having watched the entire attack unfold before them, Miranda was the first to speak, and she spoke with admiration, "Not bad," with appreciation of the assassin's skill evident in her tone.

Miranda and Mordin kept their weapons trained on the assassin while Shepard assessed Krios for a brief moment before speaking. "I was hoping to talk to you."

Krios spoke very quietly, "I apologize, but prayers for the wicked must not be forsaken."

Shepard snorted, "Well, she certainly was wicked."

The assassin surprised her when he responded, "Not for her. For me. The measure of an individual can be difficult to discern by actions alone. Take you, for instance. All this destruction... chaos." Thane paused for a moment before he continued, "I was curious to see how far you'd go to find me. Well... here I am." Thane walked up and stopped directly in front of Shepard, paying no attention at all to the two supporting team members with weapons trained on him.

Shepard very calmly queried, "How'd you know I was even coming at all?"

Thane walked past Shepard and stood calmly in front of the barrel of Mordin's pistol. "I didn't. Not until you marched in the front door and started shooting. Nassana had become paranoid. You saw the strength of her ground force. She believed one of her sisters would kill her. You were a valuable distraction."

Shepard shook her head. "It would be nice to be a distraction instead of the main event for a change, but let's cut to the chase. I need you for a mission. You familiar with the Collectors?"

Thane replied, "Indeed. But only by reputation," and fell silent once more.

Shepard crossed her arms and continued, explaining about the abductions and the intent to go through the Omega-4 relay to the Collector homeworld.

That actually got Thane's attention and he spun to the commander, "No ship has ever returned from doing so."

Shepard shrugged, "So we'll be the first. They say it's a suicide mission… I intend to prove them wrong."

Thane got contemplative for a moment, speaking more to himself at first, "A suicide mission... yes. A suicide mission will do nicely." He then looked at the commander as he finished. "I'm dying. Low survival odds don't concern me. The abduction of innocent colonists does. I will join your crew, Commander, no charge. The universe is a dark place. I'm trying to make it brighter before I die."

Shepard stuck out her hand, "Glad to have you aboard, Thane. Your skills will be a huge benefit, and I'm looking forward to working with you."

As the group turned to leave and head back to the Normandy, Miranda reached out and halted Shepard; Mordin and Thane stopped to wait. The operative once again managed to surprise the commander. "Shepard... the armor retrofits won't be done until lunchtime tomorrow. It always was slated for a three day job." When Shepard didn't show any signs of understanding, Lawson was blunt. "Oh, for God's sake. Go to the bloody apartment, Shepard! We don't know how long it will be before you'll get back here again. Mordin and I can get Mr Krios back to the Normandy and settled in. Just be back on board before noon."

Shepard's eyes got big as understanding finally set in. With a big smile on her face, the commander whispered, "Thanks, Miranda. I owe you one," and took off at a light jog toward the housing district. Miranda laughed and got back on the move toward the Normandy. Mordin looked at Miranda as if contemplating saying something, then thought better of it and fell in behind her and Thane.

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Shepard was less than five steps into the darkened apartment when she was frozen in stasis and had a pistol set to her temple. A quick flash of panic set in as she wondered if a Shadow Broker assassin had found Liara before she had found the Shadow Broker. As the lights came up slightly, Riana cursed under her breath and released the commander under a profuse litany of apologies. Even though her heart was racing, Shepard turned to the chagrined huntress in acknowledgement. "Thanks, Riana, for not having a shoot-first, ask questions later policy!" At Riana's stricken look, Shepard had to laugh as she clapped the huntress on the shoulder. "Seriously, it does my heart good to know you are so vigilant in protecting my bondmate. Don't ever lose that edge."

They were both saved from further awkwardness by Liara flying down the steps into Shepard's embrace, after being woken from her slumber by her bondmate's flash of panic through their new connection. "Shepard! What are you doing here?" Liara then blushed as she continued, "Not that I'm complaining!"

"Well, the armor refits won't be done until lunch tomorrow, and we finished up the assassin recruitment mission... and, well, Miranda threw me off the Normandy." She smiled as she watched the look of wonderment cross the Asari's face. "Yes, my XO directed me to come spend more time with you while I could, since we don't know when we'll get back here again."

Liara's eyebrow markings rose. She looked at Riana and thanked her, following with a wink and a brief statement as she took the commander's hand. "I'll take care of our trespasser from here..." She then spoke to Shepard as they climbed the steps, "Given the circumstances, you really should have messaged you were coming home. It would have saved all of... that."

Shepard grinned, "How do you know I wasn't testing your security?"

Liara wheeled on her in all seriousness, "Shepard, don't you dare! It could have gotten you killed! I just thank the Goddess it was Riana on duty and not one of the younger commandos. I'm not sure how they would have reacted."

Shepard looked at her bondmate with remorse and pulled her into an embrace. "I'm sorry, love. I shouldn't jest about things like that." Shepard cupped the Asari's cheek and took Liara's lips softly in her own in a gentle and sincere apology. When she broke away, she walked to the corner of the room and started shedding her armor.

Liara came to assist and it wasn't long before she gasped, "Samantha! You didn't go see Karin after your mission, did you?" Shepard sheepishly shook her head no as Liara slowly peeled the commander's under-armor liner off her explosion reddened and bruised skin. Without asking, Liara turned on the water and hung a clean towel, then helped the commander finish getting undressed before taking her hand and leading her to the shower. Once Shepard was in, Liara quickly stripped and slid in behind her, taking the bath sponge and carefully cleansing all of the commander's newest battle wounds. There was nothing major, her nanites had already started repairing much of the damage; it was more a matter of removing the blood and grime from the surface wounds so the skin could start to repair itself as well.

"So what exactly happened? It looks like you walked through fire..." No matter how careful and gentle Liara tried to be, Shepard's skin was extremely sensitive to touch and the commander hissed as Liara cleansed the burn.

Shepard told her about the Fenris exploding literally at her feet with no shields active. The commander was very curious about the strength of their new link and had to ask, "So, how did you know something was wrong?"

"Ha! How did I know? How could I not? I was just locking up the office when I suddenly couldn't breathe. Even across the meld, that explosion nearly knocked me off my feet. I've never seen Riana move so fast; she was up the stairs and at my side in an instant. At first I had no idea what was going on and then it dawned on me there was only one thing even remotely possible." Liara shook her head, remembering the wonder she felt at the realization. "I pulled up your vitals tracker on my omnitool and confirmed my suspicions. You were too far away to physically provide you timely aid, so I did the only thing I could; I opened myself to you and offered stability and strength of spirit."

Shepard relaxed against the cool wall of the shower and stared at the wondrous being before her. "You have no idea what that did for me, do you?" Between the worshiping gaze and the awe in Samantha's voice as she asked the question, Liara could do nothing but stare at the floor and blush. Shepard went on to explain how easily she recovered from the blast and how quickly her biotics came back to full strength. They turned off the water and the scientist in Liara came forward; they discussed the implications while they carefully patted Samantha dry, careful to not drag the towel across any of the particularly sensitive regions and burns. Once they were both completely dried off, they retreated to the bed where Shepard stretched out flat while Liara sat astraddle, gently smearing a thin sheen of medigel across all of her burns.

Shepard softly massaged Liara's thighs while receiving the tender ministrations. With her rate of regeneration, the majority of the symptoms would probably fade within the hour, but the medigel provided instant relief. She closed her eyes and reveled in the caresses that played softly across her cheeks, her forehead, and her chin. She felt herself drifting to sleep, so she spoke to stay awake and asked a random question that wandered across her consciousness. "Li? How did you get my vitals tracker on your omnitool?"

Liara grinned mischievously, "I modified the built in transmitter in your armor to hack into the feed that goes to the Normandy. I just want to be able to keep track of you, love."

"You know Edi will find that, don't you?" Shepard just shook her head as she asked the obvious.

Liara laughed. "Of course she did, almost immediately, but Joker vouched for me. We had a very nice conversation before she informed me it was only a local transmitter, so once you left the system it would no longer work." Liara's brow furrowed before she continued. "I believe she does not want me to be disappointed when the feed cuts off when you head out again. Very... considerate... for an AI."

Sam sighed and a contented smile spread across her face. "Every day, you amaze me, Dr T'Soni. I wonder if this is all some magnificent dream and I'm going to wake up to find I'm ten years old and you're part of a story my mother and I made up the night before." She pried her eyelids open at the sound of a husky throated chuckle.

Liara was smiling down at her, a look of raw passion seated deep in her eyes. Her voice was rough as she spoke. "Trust me, Commander, this is no dream. I know your mother, and she would never talk about THIS to her ten-year-old daughter." With that, Liara leaned forward and kissed Samantha with a fervor born of pure desire that shot electricity throughout her body. Samantha's mind jumped from sleepy to seduction in a flash, and even as she felt her clit throb and the wet heat build in her core she was sure her mind was making promises her body wouldn't be able to keep; she was tired from the fight and realized she hadn't eaten dinner to replace any of the energy burned by the use of her biotics.

Because of the light meld, Liara 'heard' Samantha's reservations and her answer thought came through loud and clear, {Oh, my dear commander, you really must take better care of yourself...}, but Liara didn't pause for a second in the attentions she was lavishing on Shepard's body. {Join with me, Samantha. I have energy for the both of us...}

Shepard opened her mind, let herself be consumed by the black abyss, and rode the waves of passion with much more stamina than she herself possessed. The calm sea climbed to a raging storm and after many repetitions the tempest abated and the tide rolled out, Liara's fire was finally quenched and she collapsed contentedly into Samantha's arms to sleep.

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When Shepard awoke the next morning, she immediately sensed Liara's presence and knew something was amiss. {Liara? What's wrong?}

{N-nothing... oh, Sam! I don't know! Something odd is happening with us. I don't understand it, and it frightens me... but I'm with you, and I shouldn't be frightened, so why am I?} Liara rolled over and faced her lover, her normally radiant blue eyes clouded with concern and glistening with unshed tears.

{Liara! Come here! We'll figure it out... together, just like we always do!} Shepard reached out and pulled the Asari close. Liara resisted for the briefest instant and then allowed herself to be pulled into the commander's embrace. {Tell me, Blue. What is it you don't understand that you are afraid of?}

Liara choked back a sob before she attempted to answer the question. {This... physical craving. I... it's different than it has been before. I'm having... urges I can't control. You used a word I think fits perfectly... primal. You touch me and I immediately want to meld and be... physical. To the point where I can't stop myself!} Samantha felt the heat and Liara's embarrassment surge through the link.

{I'll admit, your recent sexual... aggressiveness... is different, but what about that is frightening?} Shepard was honestly confused, and Liara immediately recognized it and knew she needed to explain more fully.

{Goddess, Samantha! I don't know where it's coming from!} Even though distraught, Liara had to chuckle at the absurdity of that statement. {Well, that's not entirely true. I know where it comes from, you're amazing and I love you! But the unexplained lack of control... it is very unlike me... and... and...} Liara's mood swung from humor to despair as her fear returned, and her whole body shuddered as her mind froze in terror.

Shepard crushed the Asari to her, wrapped her tightly in her arms and pushed comfort and security through the meld to her lover. {Hey! There's nothing we can't solve together! What has you so frightened, my love, that you can't even give voice to it?} Samantha stroked Liara's crest folds and massaged her back in an endeavor to relax her enough to speak.

{By the Goddess! Asari and uncontrollable urges! I'm a p-p… pureblood!} Liara gasped as if in pain and burst into wracking sobs against Samantha's chest.

Complete understanding of the extent of Liara's fear erupted in Shepard's mind and she actually laughed out loud, throwing Liara's mind into complete confusion and making her cry even harder. {Dr Liara T'Soni! There is absolutely, positively, no way under the sun you are an Ardat-Yakshi! All the times we've made love, you have never harmed me in any manner, shape or form! There is obviously another explanation; we just need to figure out what it is! Put your research skills to work, Info Broker!} Shepard pressed a hard kiss to the top of Liara's head and loosened her grip so Liara could pull away if she wished.

Liara's breath hitched a number of times as she tried to control her sobs and her rampant emotions. {By the Goddess, Samantha. I love you, but please do not laugh at my fears. They are so very real to me!}

{Oh, Blue! I'm sorry... I don't mean it that way at all. I'm not laughing at your fear! I would never do that to you. I'm laughing in relief, because I know to the deepest part of my soul that you aren't an Ardat-Yakshi! There is something else at work here. Something to do with the depth of our relationship, I know it. Perhaps we're pushing you to early matronhood? Why don't you ask Sha'ira?} Shepard pushed Liara away so she could look in those gorgeous radiant blue eyes once again. Though still lacking their usual brightness, Sam was relieved to see some of the cloudiness had gone.

Liara closed her eyes to shield herself from the commander's studious gaze and took a deep calming breath as she felt the backs of Samantha's fingers brush tenderly across her cheek. {That, my love, is an excellent idea. If I was not so confused and frightened by all this, I would have thought of that. I should have thought of that! Just another reason why I need you.} Liara paused for a moment and reopened her eyes, looking lovingly into Shepard's face before speaking softly, "Thank you, Samantha."

"You..." Shepard leaned in and kissed the tip of Liara's nose, "...are very welcome, my beautiful Blue." She smiled at a more relaxed Asari, literally feeling the waves of stress fall away. "Now. Do you have any more of those urges you need me to sate before I head back to the Normandy?" Shepard's smile spread into a wide grin as the Asari before her blushed ferociously and she felt the rush of desire scream through the meld...