Shepard watches the air bubbles rise in the empty fish tank. The hum of the filter is not soothing, but at least it’s something. She can’t turn on the radio beside her bed because she has no taste for music. Everything she’s heard she hasn’t liked. It’s just noise, too much noise. She pretends to like songs sometimes, but she’s not very good at it. It’s probably why she can’t dance.
It’s then that she catches her reflection in the glass. Her scars still haven’t faded. Chakwas said doing good was supposed to help them heal, so why are they still there? If anything, they look worse. She saw the way Liara’s eyes were snagged on them.
She tries to do good. Maybe not everyone would agree with her methods, but they get results. She saves people. Almost everyone sees her as callous, but she doesn’t see how she can be anything but callous. Not everyone can make the decisions she has to.
She turns away from the aquarium and traces one of the scars on her cheek with a finger. How much of her is machine?
Would Liara still want her, after all she’s done? When she looks like this? Maybe she really is closer to an AI than she is to being a human being. Her cheeks still feel warm when she touches them, but she doesn’t know if that’s from blood or because the Illusive Man had something installed under the skin. If she’s even covered in real skin.
She runs a hand through her hair. Those six months on Earth gave her time to think, too much time. She should be glad to be back on the Normandy; she’s usually too busy to think about anything except where she should be pointing her gun, but this time it’s different because this could be the last mission. She never really believed she would die on the suicide mission.
EDI tells her someone is at her door. Taking a deep breath, she smooths down the front of her shirt. “You can let them in, EDI.”
“Shepard, I was hoping I could talk to you about the prothean device,” Liara says as she steps into the cabin. “Until we know precisely what it does, it’s far too dangerous to use.”
She paces as she talks, gesturing with her hands but she doesn’t look Shepard in the eye once.
“We’ll figure out what it does but until then the priority is getting it built.”
Liara nods. “Shepard, I wanted to ask you something.”
“Anything,” Shepard says but she doesn’t mean it. Shepard’s spent so long hoping that, somehow, Liara would find her way back onto the Normandy and they could continue from where they were before Cerberus got involved. She’s not sure if she could handle anything less.
In the past few hours since leaving Mars, Shepard has been living in hope that maybe something could happen again and that was good enough for her. Living in that limbo was better than Liara telling her she didn’t want to be with her.
“Are we ...” Liara looks at a spot just above Shepard’s shoulder. “Never mind. It’s not important. It - it can wait. I’ll mail you what I’ve found out about the prothean device.” Her eyes flick to Shepard’s for the tiniest moment, almost accidentally.
As Liara turns to leave, Shepard blurts out the question she’s wanted to ask ever since they found each other on Mars. “Are you afraid of me?”
Liara turns and her touch is light against Shepard’s cheek. “I could never be afraid of you, Shepard.” Her eyes are startlingly blue, so much brighter than she remembers.
She begins to take her hand away and Shepard reaches up a hand, grasping at Liara’s arm. “You wanted to ask me something?”
“I-I was wondering ... You and Garrus grew close, but ...” She swallows. “Should I just forget there was anything between us?”
Shepard almost laughs in relief. “No,” she says before pulling Liara into a kiss. She feels Liara’s hands in her hair and when Liara pulls away, all Shepard can do is smile at her.
“You don’t want to stay up here a bit longer?” she asks as she takes Liara’s hand, threading their fingers together.
Liara shakes her head. “I want to, but right now there’s work to do. If you’re free later on, maybe you could come visit me in my office?”
“I’ll see you then.”
Liara leaves and Shepard catches her own reflection in the fish tank. Her scars look the same as they always have.