By the time Liara gets home from work, Shepard is already in bed. She had only been asleep for around twenty minutes when she woke, hearing the shower being turned on in the next room. Having a separate room for the shower is something she still isn’t quite used to. There are a lot of things she isn’t used to.
The mattress depresses as the asari gets into bed and Shepard rolls onto her side to face her.
“How was work?” Her voice is still half asleep and she winces from the light Liara has turned on.
Liara turns off the lamp on the bedside table and lies down, blue eyes watching Shepard. “Earth is such a strange place. The humans don’t seem to be taking kindly to me.”
“Still?” Now Shepard is awake. The fact that there are still xenophobes on Earth doesn’t surprise her, but she had thought that Liara’s role in saving the damn galaxy would have been worth something.
“No one says anything to my face, of course. It’s nothing I can’t handle.” She closes her eyes and rests against the pillow. “How was your day?”
“It was ...” Boring, mundane, stifling, idiotic. “Fine. I’ve never really had free time before.” Moronic. She had nothing to do. There was no excitement. How did people live like this? She had tried to watch the television but as soon as anything violent had come onscreen she had wanted to be sick. Even if she wasn’t watching anything like that, there were constant commercials for shows -- some were even about her -- and news reports.
“Did you do the washing again?”
She had used too much powder, the whole bed stinks of the stuff. Shepard nods. She doesn’t like doing laundry but it’s at least something she knows how to do. She did have to look it up on the extranet but it wasn’t hard to pick up, and it can take all day if she washes everything in the house.
The Alliance had granted her quite a few privileges when she was forced to retire, premium extranet access being one of them. She never had to pay for anything, either, as she’d been given a bank account and a house.
She’d never had a house. She’d lived in old, run-down buildings, underground tunnels, anything anyone could think of when she was a child. She’d only joined the Alliance to get out of the gangs. It was a life of constant movement, fight and uncertainty and she realises only now why she felt so at home aboard the Normandy.
Shaking her head, she remembers where she is. “What?”
“Never mind.” Liara sighs and rolls onto her back.
Shepard moves closer to her, draping an arm over Liara’s waist. “I’m sorry they’re treating you this way.”
“It’s fine, Shepard. The museum is an ... interesting place to work.” Her eyes are sad as she watches the stars through the skylight on the ceiling. “I don’t mind it.” She places a hand on Shepard’s arm.
“It won’t be forever,” Shepard says. She wonders what she means, what is the ‘it’? Liara’s job, their situation, peace?
Liara falls asleep soon after and Shepard watches the stars and wonders how everyone else is doing. No one except Joker is on Earth, as far as she knows, and he’s on another continent. Vega has flown through but they didn’t get a chance to see one another. Garrus is helping Palaven get back on its feet, Tali is helping Rannoch find its feet, the krogan are all too busy with each other to notice anything. It’s discomforting to know that she can’t just fly through a Mass Relay and stop off at a planet. She can’t go down to the main battery to see Garrus, there are no more conversations with EDI in the cockpit.
Taking care not to disturb Liara, she slips out of the bed and wanders into the kitchen. She makes herself some coffee and sits at the table where she left her datapad open hours earlier. It’s still open on the main asari news site. She can handle reading the news because she knows what’s going to happen; television is not predictable.
Thessia is taking even longer than expected to rebuild. So much of the infrastructure is gone and there are trials for those who helped cover up the prothean beacon that are causing legal problems with the cleaning up of the asari homeworld.
Shepard knows Liara is torn between Earth and Thessia. If it were the other way around, Shepard doesn’t know what she would do. Earth is badly damaged, but it’s nothing compared to what Thessia had to endure.
And she could have done something. Somehow. Replaying her choices over and over in her head, she can’t think of anything, but there must have been a way.
She takes a sip of her coffee and it burns her tongue. The house is cold and there are goosebumps appearing on her arms, her feet are freezing on the tiled floor but she makes no move for a blanket. Running a hand through her short hair, she closes her eyes and tries to let her mind go blank but all she can see is Thessia in ruins because she didn’t save it in time.
“You have to stop wearing nothing to bed,” Liara says, appearing at the entrance to the kitchen holding a jacket. She drapes it over Shepard’s shoulders and sits opposite her. “I woke up and you weren’t there.”
“A singlet and underwear isn’t nothing,” Shepard says. “And I seem to remember you not minding this. Something about easy access.”
Liara smiles. “I don’t remember saying anything of the sort. Do you think you’ll sleep tonight?”
Shepard shakes her head. She can barely remember the last time she had a good sleep that wasn’t induced by drugs the hospital had given her after London. “You go back to bed, Liara. I’ll be okay.”
“I’ll be fine.”
They kiss goodnight and soon, Shepard is alone again. Pulling the jacket closer to her, she drinks more coffee and checks her email. There are always a lot of messages but she replies to very little of them. Even some that she wants to reply to, she can’t.
Eventually, she turns on the television and finds a vid about the first manned voyage to Mars. The graphics are terrible but the narrator's voice is soothing and after much too long, Shepard eventually drifts off into a broken sleep.
The morning is crisp when the sun rises and soon Liara follows. She finds Shepard lying on the couch, curled up into a ball. Draping a blanket over her, she kisses her forehead and leaves to go to work.