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A New Forever

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Liara walked into the bar as though she had been there a hundred times before.

It seemed familiar—not like Afterlife and Flux and Purgatory had become familiar to her those hundreds of years ago, with the smell of sweating bodies and cheap whiskey. No, this bar was familiar in a different way. The lights were dim. The music was low. Chairs and couches were scattered about the room, positioned in front of a large viewing screen. Above it was a picture, also familiar, though Liara’s eyes couldn’t quite make it out.

The bar off to the side was small, perhaps long enough for five asari or three krogan at most, but the shelves behind were stocked: Noverian rum, ryncol, and a few bottles of Thessian Red from vintages that no longer existed. They were the drinks of her maiden years, and Liara smiled in recognition.

“Somehow, I always knew you would be the last of us.”

The voice did not surprise her even though she hadn’t been expecting it. The words, and the speaker, seemed inevitable. She turned with a warm smile. “Garrus. It’s been a long time.”

The turian looked just as Liara remembered him, scarred but healthy, wearing his trusty visor. He seemed at peace, a peace that seeped into Liara’s skin. The aches that had plagued her for the past century suddenly seemed like a distant memory, even as other distant memories came forward and grew brighter.

“Not just because you’re an asari, of course,” Garrus said, “although I’m sure that helped. But because one of us needed to stick around and make sure people remembered her.”

“She will be remembered,” Liara said proudly. “I spent my life making sure of it.”

“I bet you did,” a low voice rumbled.

Liara turned to see another figure who hadn’t been there before. Wrex had always been massive—even the last time Liara had seen him, well over a thousand, a fading warrior with clouded eyes who nevertheless stared into the beyond without fear—but here, he dwarfed the bar he leaned against, looking as though he might crush one end under the weight of his arm.

When he hugged her, though, his embrace was soft and gentle.

“It’s good to see you,” Liara murmured.

Wrex chuckled. “And it’s good to see you too, Liara.”

“Hey, give the rest of us a chance, will you? You just saw her a hundred years ago.”

Liara stepped back as Wrex released her, tears beginning to fill her eyes. “Tali,” she whispered through trembling lips. With Garrus and Wrex looking every inch the soldiers they had been during the war, she hadn’t been sure about Tali—but there her friend stood, maskless, though her hood still cast her purple skin into shadow. Liara caught the shine of dark hair, the gleam of white eyes.

She didn’t realize she was reaching out until Tali took her hand. Their fingers laced together, and Liara felt soft, paper-thin skin, nothing like Tali’s gloves.

“Thank you, Liara, for looking after my people after I left.”

Liara dipped her head. “She wouldn’t have done any less.”

“Room for two more in this love-fest?”

As Tali let go of her hand, Liara suddenly found herself being hugged on both sides. Ashley and Kaidan, of course. Who else? Kaidan, whom she had never gotten to say a real goodbye to—whom she had always felt partially responsible for killing, since she had been the other member of the party that day on Virmire. Kaidan, who had graciously stepped aside despite his own feelings, who had never given her so much as a glance of resentment.

And Ashley, who had lived long enough to see her family name honored, who’d been blessed by her God with children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. Liara had kept track of some of them—a few had even married into House T’Soni, further down the line. Ashley, the woman who hadn’t given a word of welcome to her or any alien on the SR-1, had descendants of two different species.

Liara hugged them tight, gasping.

“Calm down, T’Soni,” Ashley said, patting her on the back.

“You’ve been waiting almost a thousand years. I haven’t had time to adjust.”

“Time’s a funny thing here,” Kaidan said. “But you’ve done well with it, Liara. We’re all proud of what you did for us. For her.”

A question rose, trembling, to Liara’s lips: Where is she? But she never got the chance to ask it, because the low lights became brighter, and she noticed another group seated at the table. Cards were scattered across its surface, and Liara laughed. It was no surprise to her that Jack and Miranda had the two largest chip piles.

“Hey, Blue,” Jack said, throwing a mock salute. “Fashionably late doesn’t make you special, you know. All it makes you is an asshole.” Her hair was long, but Liara couldn’t for the life of her remember which version of her tattoos this was. She did, however, catch a glimpse of an N7 symbol somewhere along Jack’s back.

Miranda sighed, almost fondly. “For once, I have to agree, Liara. Six hundred years with this one… you might have hurried it up.”

“I disagree,” said EDI. Liara wasn’t too surprised at the form she had chosen, something close to the silver body she had taken from Eva Core, but the nose was broader, the jaw thicker. It reminded her more of another face, a face that made her heart lurch, because she had not yet seen it. “Liara’s first hand knowledge of the Reaper War has allowed historical accounts to remain consistent for over a millenia. Among shorter lived species such as humans, such accuracy is hard to maintain.”

“Pfft. Historical accounts.” James Vega’s teeth were almost blinding. “They don’t do justice to the legend.

“She was a legend while she was still breathing, Mr. Vega,” Cortez said, proudly. “Now, she’s something bigger.”

But where is she?

Liara saw other faces she knew. Samara, diadem perched on her head, w ith more softness in her face than Liara had noticed before; Zaeed, less scarred, but just as focused on his drink; Thane, his eyes half-lidded, soaking in the surroundings to make a memory-picture; Mordin, who was, absurdly, wearing beach attire for reasons Liara could not fathom. There was Samantha behind the bar, mixing a drink Liara suspected was for her, and Javik, sitting apart from the others, but somehow still a member of the group despite his distance. Even Legion was there, with the familiar N7 symbol welded onto his shoulder.

"I see this unit did have a soul after all," she said to him. "Not that we ever doubted."

Legion's optic port widened with its usual whirring sound. "This unit had something better than a soul." The light within flared softly, giving him a look of happiness—recognizable even on a face that didn't resemble Liara's own. " I had friends. I had Shepard-Commander."

Liara had to blink back tears, as well as another flood of memories. Legion's death had gutted her bondmate in ways she hadn't been able to understand at the time—not until the meld had filled in some of the blanks.

"Yes, you did. You do."

But where is she?

“Where is she?” Liara asked Joker, who was standing—not sitting—at the opposite side of the bar from Wrex.

“She’s coming,” he said. “She knows you’re here. And Liara…?”

“Yes,” Liara laughed, “I forgive you for calling my crest ‘floppy’.”

“No. Thanks. For saving her.”

“Which time?” she replied, and the room echoed with a chorus of ‘Ooooh’s.

“You know which time,” Joker insisted, and Liara nodded, because she did. The pain of those two years, the worst of her thousand years of life, had hardened her for a while, but it had not broken her. Afterwards, nothing could. Her love had transcended death.

“We all saved her,” Liara said. “And she saved us all.”

A sense of quiet fell over the room then, a peaceful silence that calmed Liara even as something deep within her stirred. When she had lost her bondmate for the final time after five hundred years together, some part of her heart had stopped beating. But now it throbbed to life again, and her whole body glowed.

She's coming.

Liara felt the words in her soul before Grunt even opened the door—a door that hadn't existed until moments ago. "Hey, Mom," he said, and though Liara wanted to crane her neck and look beyond his bulk, some part of her was frozen to the floor. Her feet refused to move.

She remembered the last words her lover had said before passing beyond, words she had carried with her for the final four hundred years of her life.

"My love, take your time. I'll be waiting."

And so Liara waited until Grunt, and all the others, stepped aside to reveal the face she had been waiting for. It all came rushing back to her, though she had never forgotten—that face, adorably freckled, with only a few faint scars Liara had committed to memory with her lips. That hair, tousled, which she had continued to find fascinating even as the years passed. She had run her fingers through it over and over, always surprised by the texture. And those eyes, endlessly green...

"Shepard."

Shepard smiled. Liara's heart was born again.

"Hey, Liara."

Her leaden feet sprouted wings. She rushed toward Shepard, and the rest of the crowd disappeared as she flung herself into her bondmate's arms.

"I missed you..."

Then Shepard's lips were on her crest, and Shepard's hands were stroking soothing patterns on her back—even before Liara knew she was crying.

"What did I tell you before Ashley dragged you back onto the Normandy?"

"No matter what happens..." Liara said, and Shepard finished.

"You mean everything to me, Liara. You always will."

Liara didn't say anything. She didn't need to. After centuries of waiting, she was holding her Shepard again.

They remained like that for a long time, wrapped up in each other, breathing each other in even though they no longer needed to breathe.

This, Liara thought, is my eternity. This is my reward.

She couldn't think of a better one. Unless...

She tilted her face up, and Shepard's green eyes swallowed her. They kissed, and it was just like the first time against the lockers of the Normandy, just like the kiss they had shared on the fallen battlements in London—electric, intimate, the kiss of two people who had spent a lonely forever reaching for each other, only for their fingertips and lips to finally touch.

Suddenly, she and Shepard were the only two people in the galaxy. They were no longer at the bar so reminiscent of Anderson's apartment, but in a field of stars, the same field Liara had shown Shepard within her mind in a last attempt at comfort.

And in that field of stars, their bodies knew each other.

Clothes were removed, or perhaps simply vanished, because suddenly, Shepard was naked against her, and Liara could feel the heat of her flesh and the pounding of her heart. It was like living again, better than living again, because she didn't have to do it alone. Shepard had come back, just like always.

Their lips knew secret places.

Liara drank in the taste of Shepard's skin, relishing the heat of Shepard's mouth on her neck. It knew which folds to nip and nuzzle, and Shepard's hands knew just how to hold the swell of her hips. She let her palms roam along Shepard's back, feeling the muscles, the sheer strength packed into them.

Their hands wandered familiar trails.

Each path Shepard's fingertips blazed upon Liara's skin was an awakening. Rivers sprang to life where they passed, feeding parched earth, creating flourishing streams that centered between her legs and dripped down her thighs. When she parted them for Shepard's hand, her own hand gripped a firm handful of Shepard's rear. This was familiar. This was beautiful. This—Shepard, against her, sinking into her, joining with her, becoming a part of her—was the forever she had fought for and more.

It was eternity. It was neither an end nor a beginning, but a circle that coiled in on itself, binding the two of them in their own little universe.

Shepard claimed her with every bit of ferocity, and every bit of tenderness, she had bestowed upon Liara during her life. Her thrusts were hard, the rhythmic roll of her muscles insistent, but her lips were gentle, skimming Liara's cheek, kissing each freckle.

"Liara..."

"Jane..."

Liara rarely used Shepard's first name—her last name was intimate enough—but also, in life, Liara had weighed heavily with the knowledge that, as often as Shepard claimed the contrary, the great Commander was not hers alone. Shepard belonged to everyone, to the entire galaxy. She was their hero and their savior, and Liara was resigned to sharing, honored simply to have Shepard's heart even if she couldn't claim the rest for herself.

But now, Shepard was a legend, a god among those who still lived. Her work—their work—was finished at last. There was no more need for 'The Shepard'. There was just Jane, and Jane was all hers.

Though Liara clasped desperately around Shepard's fingers, keening with each curl, it was not enough. She wanted a deeper joining. She wanted to be inside of Shepard as Shepard was inside of her. She wanted the meld.

"Embrace Eternity," she said, or maybe thought, because there was no way to be sure. The lines had already blurred, and she couldn't sort out where she ended and Shepard began any longer.

Suddenly, they were not merely floating within a sea of stars. They were the stars, a shower of shining dust and light that reached out to the edges of the universe and beyond. This is Siari, something left of Liara realized. This was becoming one with the universe, adding their energy to the whole, sharing their love with the pool of life that remained in the physical realm.

A burning desire, brighter still, guided Liara's hand until she was within Shepard as well. They moved together, shifting as the tides, and Liara could understand why the drell claimed the afterlife was reminiscent of an ocean. Each wave of Shepard that washed over her filled her with calm, with peace, with completeness.

Their energy built and built, and the light shone brighter and brighter, until it eclipsed the waves and the swirling stars with the birth of a new sun. Liara could make out Shepard's silhouette, glowing, entwined with hers, and when they reached their peak, they arrived together, only remaining in what was left of their bodies to kiss and hold and quiver. But they were more—so much more.

Bodies could not hold such love.

Liara came back to herself, or what remained of it, smiling, with Shepard's fingers still inside her and Shepard's lips grinning against hers. Her own were sealed in her lover's warmth, and she was in no hurry to remove them. The bond between them faded, but did not sever—and some part of Liara knew it would never be broken again. The cords of love that bound them were refreshed, far too strong to pull apart.

"I've waited so long," she whispered, happy tears running in tracks down her face.

Shepard's fingertips wiped the shimmering trails from her cheeks. "I know. But they needed you. They needed you for a while longer, just like they needed me."

"Is it really over?" Liara asked, hesitant and uncertain. "Can we... belong to each other now?"

"Yes. And by belonging to each other, we can fill the universe."

"With love?"

"With love." Shepard's lips kissed her forehead, sealing their covenant.

Liara relaxed in Shepard's arms as they floated together amongst the stars. Mere bodies could not hold their love, but perhaps the universe could.