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.
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.
That one burned. The Alliance was all she’d known, all her family had known for generations.
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.
I really am sorry for making you all wait so long! Work deadlines kind of killed me. And then, well, Aria took a turn I wasn't expecting...
“I hate all of them. Fucking Cerberus. Fucking Alliance. Fucking Council.” She leaned over her shoulder, shouting at the club behind Aria’s couch. “FUCKING GALAXY!” Shepard turned back slowly, muttering under her breath, and took another long swig.
“Fuckers all want something. Can’t even die in peace. Cerberus has to go and drag me back from the dead, turn me into a fucking Frankenstein monster.” She looked away, but all she could see in her mind were the glowing orange scars that covered her body.
Aria, whose legs were propped on Shepard’s lap, reached out to touch the scars on her face. Shepard slapped her hand away, annoyed, but Aria just grabbed her chin and shot her a look.
Shepard glared back. Aria ignored it.
“I wouldn’t say it’s really that bad. They give you an air of dangerousness.” She finally released Shepard’s chin, and looked away. “I’ll even admit it’s kind of sexy.”
Shepard stared at Omega’s self-professed queen, and decided she was definitely too drunk if the infamous Aria T’Loak was making a pass at her. Also too drunk to tell if it was a turn on, or just annoying.
Aria, however, just sipped at her whiskey and acted like nothing happened.
Annoyed. Definitely annoyed. Ok, maybe a little both.
She shook her head, then wished she hadn’t. “It’s not just the fucking scars. I’m pratlically…praclitally… Fuck it. I’m half robot. Cyber whatsit. All those microchips and metallic doodads crawling around my insides, keeping me running. Fucking sucks.” The sentiment called for another swig, which she managed, only spilling a little.
“If you get whiskey on my leather pants, I may have to do something…regrettable.”
Shepard stuck her tongue out, and shoved Aria’s booted legs off her lap. “Solves that problem.”
She raised the bottle to her lips, but it was yanked away, and suddenly Aria was straddling her lap, pinning her with biotics. She pulled, snarling, then glared at the asari, who slowly planted her hands on Shepard’s shoulders, and leaned in.
Now it’s ON.
“You really want to get in a biotic pissing contest with me, Aria? Cerberus managed to give me some fancy upgrades. I’m not even sure what I’m capable of now.”
The corner of Aria’s mouth actually twitched up, in the closest thing to a smile Shepard had ever seen on her. “Please, Commander. I’ve got centuries of experience on you, even aside from the fact that asari are naturally biotically superior to humans.” She shook her head, not worried. “How about you tell me why you’re really here, getting wasted? And don’t tell me it’s only to do with Cerberus. It’s her, isn’t it? Your precious archeologist, shy little maiden T’Soni?”
“Don’t.” Her anger surged again. Drunk suddenly didn’t feel so drunk anymore. My luck, they probably installed metabolic scrubbers so I can’t even stay drunk. “Don’t you dare talk about her.”
Aria smirked. Smirked. “If that’s how you feel, why in fuck are you sitting here, on my couch, instead of out looking for her? I have contacts. I can tell you where she is.”
Shepard ducked her head, scowling, and muttered under her breath.
Aria reached out and lifted her chin with two fingers, and not a little biotic push. “What was that?”
“I said, I fucking know where she is.”
“And yet, here you are. Why?”
Cerberus, that’s why. It all came back to them. Their ship, their crew, their mission. Their fucking spies on her ship.
Her omni-tool signaled an incoming transmission. Aria glanced at it. “That’s the twelfth time. Did Cerberus give you a watchdog, Commander? That perky brunette with the attitude and all the curves?”
Shepard charged her biotics, and shoved. Aria, caught momentarily unaware, lost her hold, and flew backwards off her lap. She stood, and headed for the stairs. “Thanks for the drink, Aria.”
A cord of concentrated biotic power stopped her in her tracks, locking her muscles faster than an electrical charge.
“Nice maneuver, Shepard. But I’m not finished with you.”
Shepard closed her eyes. “What do you want?”
Aria sauntered around to face her. “To help you.”
She ground her teeth. “I’m listening.”
“Good.” Aria dropped the lash, and pushed her back onto the couch. “Cerberus is dangerous. I consider it mutually beneficial to everyone if we keep you as free of them as possible.”
Shepard sighed. “I agree, but this thing with the Collectors…”
“Needs to be dealt with. I know. But after, Commander? What then?”
“I get the fuck out.”
“Indeed.” Aria sat, this time on Shepard’s lap. “How?”
Shepard looked away. “However I can. Blow the SR-2 to hell, if I have to.”
Aria laughed, a sound that did funny things to the alcohol still in her system. “I admire your dedication, but it doesn’t have to come to that.”
Reluctantly, she brought her eyes back to the asari’s face. “What do you mean?”
“I mean that I have a solution to your problem. Problems. You just have to decide what they’re worth to you.”
Shepard glared, but she was intrigued, and she was sure Aria knew it. “What do you want?”
Aria smirked. “What are you willing to give?”
She clenched her jaw, and leveled a look of her own. The one that sent even seasoned soldiers scurrying out of her way. “Depends. Can’t bargain when I don’t know what I’m bargaining for.”
Aria didn’t blink. “Information. A way out. My help. All of which are worth a considerable amount.”
“Agreed. But you already stated that getting me away from Cerberus benefits everyone.”
“Which is why, Commander, I’m asking very little in return.”
Shepard didn’t answer right away. She had a feeling she already knew what Aria wanted, and she was just drunk enough that she just might agree.
I’ll hate myself later, but what else is new? I hate myself already.
“Let’s hear it, then.”
Aria smiled, slow and dangerous. “A future favor. Nothing that will dent your moral compass, not more than a little, anyway.”
Shepard raised an eyebrow. “And?”
Aria’s smile grew. “Perceptive, Commander.”
“It keeps me alive. Usually.” The words came out steeped in bitterness.
Omega’s Queen leaned in closer. “I want to see what all the fuss is about, Shepard.” She came even closer, until Shepard could feel the heat of her breath against her ear. “I want to know what the most famous soldier in the galaxy tastes like.”
And there it is.
Any other day, and the ‘no’ would have been automatic.
Any other day, when she wasn’t drunk, when she didn’t hate herself and the galaxy. When she didn’t have a Cerberus watchdog (or several) breathing down her neck, a crew she didn’t know and couldn’t trust, or status as both impossible and unwanted. When she hadn’t done more to hate herself for, just to get a little bit of trust out of the disconnected group she was supposed to turn into a team.
Even then, on a day where Liara still loved her, she’d have said no. Without question. She’d never have turned her head, until her lips all but touched Aria’s, and said simply, “Where?”
But today, today she was too full of hurt and rage, too full of alcohol and disappointment. So today, she did.
Aria closed the miniscule distance between them, covering Shepard’s lips with her own. It was a different kiss than Shepard was used to. Dominating. Demanding. A kiss that said Right now, you are mine, and I will have all of you if I wish it.
And I do wish it.
And Shepard kissed her back, in a way that said Take me, then, and make me forget.
Aria pulled back slowly, Shepard’s lower lip held firm between her teeth, then stood with a fluid motion, pulling the commander with her. Shepard followed, surrendering, but grabbed the half-empty bottle of whiskey as they left. There was a part of her that wanted this, wanted to forget, to throw it all away. Her omni-tool buzzed again, Miranda no doubt. She shut off the call, and sent back a message.
Fuck off. I’ll be back in a few hours.
And then she did something she’d never done, not since she’d gotten her first omni-tool at eight, not since her single mother, the soldier, had drilled it into her head that she should always, always be able to reach her. Shepard turned the omni-tool off completely.
Aria stopped in front of a concealed door behind her turian guard, keyed in a code, and stepped through with the barest of backwards glances.
Shepard took a long swig of whiskey, and followed. Down a short hall. Up a flight of stairs. Into a suite of rooms, all the way to the back, to an open bedroom with a large bed, and windows through which the garish colors of Omega’s streets lit the walls.
Aria turned, resting one hand on her hip, and let her eyes slowly travel over the commander’s body.
Shepard upended the bottle and drained it. “So. How do you want to do this?”
Biotics ripped the now-empty bottle from her hand, and yanked her forward. Aria backhanded her sharply, then pushed her onto the bed. “Shut up, Commander, and strip. The only thing I want to hear out of you is begging.”
Shepard’s grin wasn’t one of pleasure, or happiness. It was the same grin she wore on her first black-op mission, one of the Theshaca raids that followed the Torfan incident. The grin she’d worn, standing over the bodies of pirates that had participated in the Skyllian Blitz. And the glint in Aria’s eyes said she knew. She understood that grin.
It was all Shepard needed.
Her hands quickly began removing her armor, the one concession she’d made to the survival instinct that had only failed her once. Even in the mood she was in, Shepard hadn’t been stupid enough to get drunk on Omega without at least being prepared for a fight she knew she was likely to get in. Soon, she was down to her compression gear, a shirt she pulled over her head and tossed to the side, followed quickly by her bra and the tight, knee-length compression shorts. She tried (and almost succeeded) to ignore the particularly bad scar that ran the length of one thigh as she removed her underwear, focusing instead on trying to remember why she’d picked that particular pair of lacy black panties.
Ones she’d bought with Liara in mind.
The memory only served to spool the rage back up. She flicked the black lace onto the floor, and stared blankly at Aria. “Now what?”
Aria slapped her again, then straddled her lap, hands immediately palming Shepard’s breasts. She pinched one nipple hard, twisting, and smiled at the pleasured grimace it elicited. “Now you shut the fuck up and undress me. And careful with the leather.”
Shepard snapped her jaw shut, biting back her reply, and pushed the white leather jacket off Aria’s shoulders. Omega’s Queen slid her arms out of the sleeves, quickly returning her hands to their rough exploration. Her mouth clamped down on Shepard’s, leaving her to deal with Aria’s multitude of clips and buckles by feel.
It wasn’t exactly an unpleasant situation, even if it did make her impatience spike. Still, Shepard wasn’t about to let a little thing like lack of sight stop her, and soon enough, she had Aria peeled out of her trademark leather corset and pants. But as soon as the last piece was removed, she found her hands locked tight in a stasis field, and pinned to the bed. Shepard grunted, but didn’t say anything, just clenched her teeth as Aria trailed harsh nails down her torso.
“That crash certainly fucked you up badly, didn’t it?” The question was punctuated with a sharp bite to the underside of Shepard’s breast. “Small wonder it took them so long to put you back together.” She soothed the bite with her tongue before pulling a nipple into her mouth. “And how…unique…that your scars glow. The cybernetics you mentioned, I assume.”
Shepard shuddered, pulling uselessly against the field that held her hands. “Yeah, it’s brilliant, I—oh, fucking god—”
Her thought vanished as Aria’s mouth vanished from her breast and reappeared on her clit with amazing precision. She felt the asari smile as her tongue pressed against her, dragging against the swollen bud with a force that was guaranteed to bring her to climax quickly.
Until she pulled away.
“Need something, Commander?”
“Fuck you, Aria.”
She gasped as two fingers were roughly shoved into her.
“No, Shepard. I do the fucking. And you’ll take it, however I want to give it.” She leaned in, sucking hard on Shepard’s clit. “Just don’t expect me to be gentle.”
Shepard fought to keep her hips from rising to the hard rhythm Aria’s fingers established, biting her lip until it went numb.
It was a losing battle.
But as soon as her hips moved, the pressure vanished. Aria brought her fingers to her lips with a laugh, licking them slowly while Shepard watched with feral eyes. “You don’t get it that easy, Commander.” She pulled away, climbing off the bed, leaving Shepard panting and frustrated.
Shepard clenched her jaw and looked away. Somehow, Aria seemed to know exactly what she needed. The pain, the humiliation. A channel for her rage, her shame.
She hadn’t failed like this since Akuze.
Hadn’t needed absolution like this.
If only Liara—
That thought was abruptly cut off by the sting of a biotic lash cutting across her torso, once, then again.
“Do I have your attention, Shepard?” Aria’s eyes burned as her hand burned a biotic trail up her body. “I’m not your little pureblood whore.” Her hand gripped Shepard’s jaw, making it vibrate. “I want to hear the great Commander Shepard beg.”
Shepard stared back, defiant.
“Beg me, Commander.” Aria’s hand, still pulsing with biotic energy, moved down her torso. “Beg me to use you. Beg me to fuck you.” She leaned in, as Shepard’s body arched against the hand that stopped tantalizingly short of where she wanted it. “Beg me to make you scream my name.”
She ground her teeth. “Fuck me, Aria.”
“I’m sorry, did you say something? I don’t think I heard you.”
“Dammit, Aria! Fuck me, already! Fuck me hard, fuck me fast, fuck me any way you like, just fuck me, please!”
Aria laughed, a low, satisfied sound. “Was that really so hard?” She climbed back on the bed, her hands still pulsing with biotics, leaving trails of pleasure in their wake.
The commander shook off the need she could feel pulling at her. “Are you going to fuck me, or just play with me?”
Aria slapped her. “You don’t learn, do you?”
“No. It wasn’t hard. Fuck me, Aria. Use me. Punish me.” Shepard arched as Aria vibrated biotic pulses against her breasts. “Just fucking stop playing with me. Please.”
Aria’s teeth closed roughly on the muscle between her neck and shoulder, just as her hand drove between Shepard’s legs. “You’re used to being in charge, Commander. You’re not weak. But you’ve been acting like it. Getting drunk. Moping around my station.” She punctuated each sentence with a forceful thrust of her fingers, sending waves of controlled biotic energy vibrating through her.
Shepard gasped for air, desperately trying to breathe through the assault. Aria wasn’t teasing anymore, she was dragging her headlong into a climax Shepard could already feel ready to crash over her.
An extra biotic push, and Shepard tumbled over, screaming wordlessly as the edges of her vision turned black. But Aria didn’t stop. Her weight shifted until hips ground against the hand that still fucked her, prolonging one orgasm as it pushed her closer to another.
“Death shouldn’t make you weak, Shepard. I’m going to fuck the weakness out of you, and when I’m done, you’ll thank me.” Aria’s forehead touched her own, a moment before she heard the words. “Embrace eternity.”
The shock pushed her over the edge again, and this time she felt Aria tumble over with her, in a confusing flash of memory and pain mixed with raw pleasure, until darkness and fire overwhelmed her.
Apparently I really just can't write fluff, without bringing feelings and things into it. This definitely didn't go the direction I planned, but whatever. Aria's still a hardass, and I love her.
Shepard felt Aria flinch, even as the memories came faster, death and fire, and the fraying edges of her mind. But strangely, the asari didn’t remove herself from the meld. She stayed, latching onto Shepard with a firm grasp. Her touch wasn’t gentle and soothing, not like Liara’s.
Control yourself, Commander.
The steel in Aria’s mental voice, the radiating island of her powerful calm amidst the maelstrom of her own mind, was exactly what Shepard needed. She felt something align in her mind, felt a rightness fall into place.
Felt herself fall into place.
With a slow breath, she pushed her nightmares back, removing them behind walls she’d forgotten she had. And in the darkness of her mind, she felt her strength waiting.
Aria slid out of the meld with a chuckle.
Shepard looked up at her and glared. “Really?”
“You really need to learn to relax, Commander. It’ll increase your lifespan.” She pushed off the bed, still licking her fingers, and picked up a thin robe draped on a nearby chair. Shepard continued to glare at her as she threaded her arms through the sleeves, leaving it untied, and sat in the chair it had rested on. “I wanted to know what your little pureblood was all hot about. Now I do. And, as promised, you get my help.”
Shepard sighed, and rolled on her side. “Nice to know I rate as a decent fuck.”
Aria’s mouth twitched in a smirk. “If I were actually the bitch you think I am, I’d lock you up here until I’d had my fill.”
Shepard wasn’t sure what to say to that. “Why?”
“Why would I lock you up? Or why don’t I?”
Shepard raised an eyebrow in answer.
Aria heaved a dramatic sigh. “Because, Shepard. Because the galaxy needs you, and it needs you intact. Not reeling from Cerberus’ invasive resurrection. And I don’t need the meld to know love when I see it.”
Shepard scowled, and flopped on her back. Her body ached from Aria’s ministrations, but she felt really alive, for the first time since waking up. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Yes you do. Your little pureblood scientist-turned-broker. I could practically smell it on her, the desperation to have you back. And it’s the same with you. That kind of love doesn’t come around every day.” She stood, and walked back to the bed, grabbing Shepard’s jaw, and forcing her to look. “That kind of love is why this galaxy is worth saving. So don’t you dare fuck it up.”
Shepard blinked. “So why insult her?”
“Because she got you first.”
She didn’t have an answer for that.
Aria let go, and walked away again. “And if you tell anyone I actually said that, I’ll find the most painful way possible to kill you.”
Shepard smiled. “And there’s the Aria we all know and love.”
“Hmph. You wish.” But the asari grinned. “Now. Have you got your head back on straight?”
The commander sat up and nodded. “Yeah. Thanks.”
“Good. Griff has an OSD for you. Everything I have on Cerberus, especially your crew, is on it. Use it. Be as fucking ruthless as you have to be, but get them on your side. You need their loyalty if you’re going to get out of Cerberus’ clutches when this is over.”
Shepard nodded. “I figured the same thing.”
“You’d be stupid not to. Now get dressed and get the fuck out of my apartment.” Aria paused, smirking. “Unless you’d like another round.”
Shepard barked a laugh. “Thanks, but I can already feel the guilt coming on. I should go.”
Aria’s lips twitched. “Yes, you should.”
She threw on her gear—ugh, this is all going in the laundry when I go back. It reeks—and headed for the door, stopping just short of it. “Aria—”
Omega’s Queen sat with her legs crossed, glass in hand, and her robe still open. One brow ridge lifted in question.
Shepard gave her a slow once-over before continuing. “Thank you.”
Aria sipped her drink. “For the fuck?”
This time, it was Shepard whose mouth twitched in a half-smile. “That too. For getting my head right.”
“Out, Commander. But if that pureblood of yours can’t handle the guilt of having gotten her hands dirty, come see me again. I could have a lot of fun with you tied to my bed.”
Shepard snorted, and walked out. I don’t know if Liara will ever forgive me for that, but… She let the thought trail off. Despite the guilt she felt over having let Aria bed her (and having enjoyed it), for the first time since dying and waking, she felt something she hadn't thought she would feel again.
She switched on her omni-tool, ignoring the flashing message light, and called the Normandy. “Joker, get the ship prepped. We’re leaving Omega.”
“Hey, Commander, um, could you please call Miranda, before she rips my arms off one finger at a time? And where exactly are we going?”
Shepard nodded once to the turian bodyguard who discretely slipped an OSD into her hand. “Illium. I have some unfinished business there.”
“This wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with—”
“Yes, ma’am. We’ll be ready.”
“Good.” Shepard smiled, and headed for the docking bay. Unfinished business, indeed.
Sometimes you have to save yourself before you can save the galaxy.