The world of the Shadow Broker is immersive, intoxicating. Liara happily loses herself in intelligence reports and surveillance and data, as her understanding of the galaxy shifts and expands. She sees connections and possibilities everywhere; how a group of scientists in Hades Gamma have black market connections to mercs on Illium and one missed supply run could be enough to start a fight could seriously destabilise trade routes to Tuchanka. Archaeology always sated her thirst for knowledge, but this accompanying power and control is new. It worries her a little how much she loves it. She knows that her job is to maintain the overall balance of power in the galaxy, not upend it, but she’s beginning to learn how to predict ramifications. She can send an agent to rescue a child from kidnappers or stop a corrupt business exploiting poor colonists without the whole system collapsing around her ears.
Most of the time, at least. Last week she’d earned what was almost a rebuke from one agent, after Liara’s order to shut down a drug smuggling ring had led to her agent having to blow his cover and be extracted out of the system, leaving valuable intel behind. She sent him on a month’s paid holiday to Thessia and promised him his first choice of assignment on return. She barely knows anything about her agents, but she wants to do right by them. They do anonymous, dangerous work, with few of the protections she enjoys on the ship. And if any of them have observed the Shadow Broker’s sudden shift in moral compass, they’re too smart to point it out.
Without Glyph and Feron, she knows she’d probably be falling sick by now. It’s hard to tear herself away to eat and to sleep, and left by herself she would probably have fallen back into old, bad habits from her student days, of running mostly on stimulants and basic rations. But Feron insists that one of the ways he’s making himself useful is by cooking – an endeavour that’s having mixed results but is much better than the alternative – and when she’s been standing at her consoles for too long Glyph will whirl towards her and trill sadly until she agrees to go lie down.
Since reuniting with Shepard, the recurring nightmares of her death have started to fade. It had haunted her for two years – abandoning her on the Normandy, returning later to find her broken body and delivering it into Cerberus’ suspect hands, waiting and waiting and never knowing. All of that has faded now, now that she’s seen Shepard again, alive and well, just as Liara remembered her. It had been such a relief to be able to reach out and feel the warmth of Shepard’s skin and kiss her as though nothing had changed.
But now she’s gone and her absence feels sharp again, cutting across old wounds. Their time together was too short, too interrupted by people shooting at them (although that is certainly familiar). She drops by sometimes to pick up reports and check in, but it’s not the same. Liara can’t leave all of this and go with Shepard, not right now, and Shepard can’t stay here. So she leaves a part of her heart on the Normandy, another invisible connection that pulls at her and helps her to see the universe differently. She wonders how long it will be before she sees her again.
"The Normandy has entered this system," Glyph announces. The thrill that rushes through Liara seems a little embarrassing in its intensity.
Liara tugs at her clothes, wondering if she should change before laughing and dismissing the idea. She’s fairly certain Shepard doesn’t have the first idea about fashion, asari, human or otherwise.
"Hey Liara," Shepard sing-songs, leaning against a console and looking at Liara coyly.
Commander Shepard, galactic protector, is frequently a huge dork. Part of why they get along so well, Liara supposes.
"Yes, Shepard? May I help you with something?"
"I was kind of hoping I could lure you out of your lair here. What do you say? Can I borrow you for a day?"
"It's beautiful," Liara admits, staring out over the lake as the water reflects the sunrise.
"Don't say I never take you anywhere," Shepard says with a grin.
"Oh, you take me lots of places. Just usually they're full of things trying to kill us. Or on fire. Or both!"
"It's a traditional courtship ritual among my people, you know."
Liara glares. "I doubt that. The krogans, maybe."
"Oh wow, can you imagine?"
Shepard pats the ground, feeling around until she picks up a stone. "Here you go, here's an actual human ritual."
She examines the stone, stands up, turns to one side, and after some careful, squinted calculation, throws the stone towards the lake. It bounces off the surface and flies forward, skimming the water but not sinking until it's so far out into the lake that Liara can hardly see it any more. She laughs, surprised and delighted.
"An ancient custom of your people, I take it?"
"A hobby of children with nothing better to do everywhere. Skipping stones, or frog jumps in some places. Knew a marine who could make the right stone fly fifty times."
"Fifty? Here, let me try." Liara looks around and selects a stone similar to the one Shepard used. She looks at the lake and then throws it forward, using her biotics to send it skimming around the lake, bouncing off the water every few meters before coming back around to where they sit, landing at Shepard's feet. "I doubt your marine could do that."
"Well, that's just cheating," Shepard says.
"Oh I'm sorry, should I have given myself a handicap?" Liara asks, mock innocent.
Shepard rolls her eyes and sits down again, leaning against Liara's shoulder. "You just can't trust aliens, can you?"
"No, we're all devious creatures out to conquer your worlds and seduce your women," Liara agrees, thinking of some particularly lurid old Earth literature she's encountered from time to time.
Shepard throws a hand over her face. "Too late, I see your dastardly plan! But I am already under your thrall."
"Is that so?"
"Yep." Shepard shifts, turning so she can face Liara properly. "You know I'd do anything for you." Her tone is suddenly serious, and Liara's heart clenches.
"No, you wouldn't. And I'm glad of it. What you've got to do -- the Collectors, the Reapers. It's bigger than either of us, and you have to go. You know I'd never ask you not to, and you wouldn't stay even if I did."
Shepard sighs, and leans forward until their foreheads touch. The familiar gesture halts an ache somewhere deep in Liara's soul, as though she can suddenly breathe a little easier. She lets the moment expand, trying to feel every detail, every sensation.
"It'll be soon, I think," Shepard says. "We're almost ready."
"You'll be alright. You're a survivor. There's only one favour I would ask."
"What is it?"
"When you make it home, let me know."
"Won't your agents be able to tell you?"
"Yes, but it's not the same as hearing it from you."
Hey Liara. Good news - not dead! Blew the Collectors up! Woo! Bad news - Alliance now thoroughly pissed after the whole coming back from the dead and working for Cerberus business, and now they're about to lock me up back on Earth.
It's just one fucking thing after another, you know?
I'll come find you when Anderson gets me out. Unless you're in the mood for a prison break?