Shepard felt the edge of consciousness drift over her and a warm body moulded into her, blue arm laying loosely across her side and belly.

Opening her eyes she saw an unfamiliar bedside table and then bulkhead, she felt Liara’s breath on the back of her neck, the Asari was mirroring Shepard’s body with her own and the feel of breasts and thighs brought a feeling of peace and contentment.

They had arrived at Arcturus the day before and decided to move into the accommodation provided for them rather than stay on the Normandy. Shepard had been given a suite of rooms with exterior views from the lounge area although she didn’t know if that was because of all the recent hype around the Citadel battle, that she was a Spectre and therefore a Council guest or if it was something to do with Liara being the daughter of a once powerful Matriarch. If it had just been Shepard she would have asked to be bunked in standard Alliance officer accommodation but she really wanted to make this short break with Liara as special as possible.

Shepard moved Liara’s arm gently and slid off the bed, it was early, but it didn’t matter if she was on duty or leave this was the time she woke up and it was too early to wake Liara, she considered it, but they had had a ‘late’ night.

She smiled thinking about their love making; Shepard was still surprised that she was so comfortable using the word ‘love’ in any context about herself. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to have, one day, what she saw other people experiencing, particularly what her parents shared, no it was more that she couldn’t see how that would work with her life choice.

She was a Marine, an Alliance officer and now Council Spectre. Apart from the dedication and commitment she felt and the focus needed to fulfil the duties she had accepted, there was also the constant danger of death or serious permanent injury which put any thoughts of allowing a serious personal relationship on the other side of a boundary that she had maintained without much difficulty until she met Liara.

There had always been room for casual liaisons, fun, and certainly she cared about the women she had been intimate with, but always at a distance, it was never going anywhere. Until now, the worst possible timing, the most dangerous and demanding time of her life, a most dangerous time for the whole galaxy.

Shepard threw on some loose sweats, found the kitchen, made coffee, and settled herself in the lounge. She looked out the large window that formed the whole of the outer wall and looked past the range of frigates and cruisers ‘parked’ around the station, to the glimmers of distant stars and the drifting Milky Way.

She was feeling more and more convinced she wanted, no needed, to take a huge next step in her relationship this holiday. But Shepard wanted to be sure her timing wasn’t being driven by the intensity of the responsibility she felt for leading the charge against the Reaper’s and their followers, or the war they had just been through.

Shepard wanted to ask Liara to, well what? Get engaged? Did Asari culture have some kind of pre-bonding thing? She really had meant to ask Liara what the Asari customs were. Shepard had meant to find out, properly, not from an extranet search, quite some time ago, but with one thing or another it just didn’t get done.

She had studied and knew a great deal about the Asari culture, politics, religion and their military of course. All necessary information to be a good ‘galactic’ citizen and definitely needed to be an effective Alliance officer and Spectre, she had studies every race Humanity now shared the galaxy with. But there was no need to learn about mating rituals, certainly not how to ask an Asari to become your ‘bondmate’.

She was considering seeing the Consort on the Citadel for advice, she didn’t really know any other Asari apart from Councillor Tevos and that would be inappropriate or Aria T’Loak and amusing though that conversation would be Shepard wouldn’t do that to Liara who would hate to find out Aria had been privy to her possible future before she was herself.

Now, if she started that conversation with Liara, it would feel last minute and end up with Shepard telling her lover why she was asking about bonding rituals and then no big moment… she smiled at herself. ‘Shepard thinking about big romantic moments, what the fuck has gotten into you’, and she suddenly thought about the reality of the next few days.

‘Shit this is the first time I have ever been with anyone, let alone in a ‘relationship’, at any kind of family thing. She had no idea how to do it’… and she had to make sure Liara was OK, and Liara had even less experience of this stuff than she did.

Shepard didn’t have any such worries about their life together on the Normandy, which was ordinary life, where they ‘lived’. And together, when they were on their own they were great, it was natural, comfortable.

But this was a particular social situation and… well… she should have thought this through before now. It was too late to run away but that was suddenly what felt like an outstanding plan. Just the two of them, that was certainly all Shepard needed and if she was honest, all she really wanted.

It would be too much, laying on a big moment in the pressure cooker that would be a full on family new year’s, ‘Shepard don’t go all soppy on me

Chapter 17