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Spite My Face

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Shepard sat back against the booth seat and let the fury of the bar’s music wash over her. Afterlife was as seedy as the rest of Omega, but there was something raw about it that resonated with her current mood. The dim lights, the bad booze, the rough clientele and mostly naked asari dancers. And of course, the music.

Loud. Angry. Pulsating.

Primal.

It spoke to the anger and uncertainty that filled her to overflowing. The anger that had already gotten her in one fight, with some idiot batarian who wasn’t smart enough to know when to leave.

It had taken too much effort to keep herself from killing him. So she hadn’t bothered to try. Single shot to the head. Left his friend to clean up the mess.

The music pulsed through her, one track merging seamlessly into another, the bass beat pounding in time with her heart.

She hadn’t felt this angry in a very long time.

Dead for two years (and twelve days). Resurrected by fucking Cerberus of all people, the same group responsible for countless atrocities across the galaxy, including the death of her own unit on Akuze. Her crew gone, scattered to the winds. The Alliance liked her better dead. So did the Council. She made less noise that way, and was better for publicity. They’d all but written her off, stopped just shy of formally declaring her a traitor.

Traitor.

That one burned. The Alliance was all she’d known, all her family had known for generations.

Traitor.

She tossed back her drink, relishing the sting, and signaled the waitress for another.

And then there was Liara.

“I need someone I trust to hack a few terminals for me.”

That one hurt most of all.

Shepard stared at the dancer in front of her, without really seeing her. She wasn’t really even sure why she’d sat in the show booth, except that it had seemed like the logical thing to do at the time. Before the alcohol had started to affect her, before the music had crawled under her skin.

It was Aria’s fault, really. Telling her to go find a nice young man to keep her company. She’d just stared back, unable to think anything beyond but I don’t want a nice young man.

Taking what the dancers had to offer seemed the only thing to do, after that.

Except none of them were the right asari.

You knew falling in love was stupid. Fucking moron. Bad enough you fell in love, but then you go and do it with a member of your own crew! However unofficial it had been, Liara had still been a member of the crew.

At least she wasn’t Alliance.

Ash’s reaction on Horizon had hurt as much as the official, bitter silence from the Alliance. More, because Ash had served with her. She’d been a friend.

The waitress, a cute asari maiden with dark face tattoos and wearing almost as little as the dancers, finally brought her next drink. Shepard nodded her thanks and tossed it back before it could touch the table. The waitress raised one eye ridge, and Shepard snorted. “Just bring a bottle. Maybe two.”

The waitress left without saying a word, and Shepard turned back to mostly ignoring the show.

“Well, Commander Shepard. Does this mean the rumors about you are true, after all?”

Shepard scowled, turning to face the owner of the silky, yet dangerous, voice. “There are a lot of rumors about me, Aria. To which are you referring?”

The Queen of Omega gave the smallest of smiles. “That you prefer asari maidens to human men.”

She snorted. If Shepard was honest with herself, it was true. Men just didn’t even seem attractive anymore. But even Aria, for all her perilous sensuality, wasn’t what she was looking for.

Though, she’s a close second. Dangerous and sexy used to be my type.

Shut up, idiot.

“I suppose it is true. But only one asari.” Mostly.

I said shut up.

“Hm.” Aria gracefully flopped down onto the seat opposite her. “The infamous Liara T’Soni. I’d heard that rumor, as well.”

Shepard cocked an eyebrow at the rancor in Aria’s voice. “Infamous?”

“Kills her own mother, a respected Matriarch who mysteriously turns her back on everything she’s ever taught? Has a fling with the most famous human in the galaxy? And then shows up on my station, making demands of me, while hunting for her dead lover? The dead lover who’s currently sitting across from me, more than half drunk, and not at all appreciative of Naia’s hard work.” Aria gestures at the dancer, who smirks without breaking her rhythm. “And where is Doctor T’Soni now her lover is alive?”

Shepard’s scowl deepened, lightening only a fraction when the waitress reappeared with her drink. She reached for the bottle, but the waitress froze when Aria spoke.

“What the hell is this?”

The waitress shook. “I…I’m sorry, Aria. It’s what she ordered.”

Aria glanced at Shepard, then waved the poor girl away. “Take this swill back, and bring a bottle of the Lusian Whiskey, from my private stock. We’ll be upstairs.” She stood, running a hand down the dancer’s leg in passing. “Coming, Commander?”

Shepard glared the self-centered asari. “I was perfectly happy with my cheap swill right here, you know.”

Aria rolled her eyes. “Really, Shepard. Leave Naia to someone who will appreciate her—and tip her appropriately.”

Shepard stood, both affronted and wondering why exactly she was about to follow the ruthless asari, and ripped out a handful of high-credit chits, tossing them to the table. “I’d fully planned on tipping. Appropriately.”

Aria smirked, and walked away. Shepard shook her head, and followed.