Chapter 60

Spaceport, Thoreau Mesa, Phoenix System

Tash jumped from the shuttle and threw a salute to Malania before turning and starting to run to another dock.

The Normandy and her crew had been patrolling vulnerable human colonies and running to the other side of the Galaxy hunting for Prothean artefacts or Reaper tech for the past Galactic standard month since their brief stop on Thessia.

Shepard’s spectre role had also dragged her into the mess on Garvug which had put the ground teams in the role of peacekeepers protecting vulnerable civilians caught up in a war between two Corporations and their mercenary proxies.

Half the time they had been on comms blackout and when FTL comms were available time slots had to be booked to ensure all crew members had a chance to catch up with home or friends.

Even officers like Tash had to use a comm terminal in the CIC or if they were lucky in the conference room which also doubled as the research and intelligence team’s work space. Not exactly conducive for the kind of conversation she wanted to have with Liselle.

When she was off duty, not playing cards or training with her team she was working out in the gym on the hangar deck. Anything to make her tired enough to sleep rather than lay on her bunk awake trying to get to grips with how she was feeling and what decision to make about pretty much everything.

She knew something had changed when she volunteered to stay on the Normandy on their visit to Larissa rather than hit the night clubs and find some company. Not even following up with the maiden she had saved Shepard from who had almost begged her for a date.

For all Tash’s flirting and talk she had no interest in hooking up with anyone. At least, she told herself, not until she had resolved the issues she had about Liselle.

She even turned away one of the young ensigns from the CIC who came to her bunk while Tash was sleeping off a night mission. Tash was in one of the officer’s room which only had four bunks in it, unlike enlisted quarters that had up to ten in one of the larger rooms. Her room mates were all on duty and it would have been easy to lock the door for privacy. But she turned the young woman away citing tiredness which was a lie.

Now if it had been Liselle, Liselle who seemed to be slipping away from her, Liselle who either hadn’t understood what Tash had tried to tell her or who had understood very well and was pulling away because she didn’t feel the same.

Tash pushed her eye shades up onto her head and offered her Omni-tool to the scan which having read her ticket for the ship to Omega flashed green indicating she could board.

Finding her seat in the cruiser sized transport she stowed her bag in the overhead storage and sat down. Forced to be physically still the emotional turmoil, she had been keeping at bay, pushed into her conscious mind like a raging storm.

Panic about her decision washed through her and it took all her strength of mind to just stay put and not run from the ship.

Tash thought about the conversation with Shepard and Liara that had sparked her headlong rush to Omega and Liselle.

Thirty six hours earlier, Normandy, Horsehead Nebula

Shepard felt a sense of pride as she carried out her weekly command inspection. The Normandy’s crew had settled into a confident and competent team. She knew that running the ship exactly like an Alliance vessel might have seemed strange to some but it wasn’t just to instil a sense of familiarity and to keep true to her loyalties.

Structure, chain of command, protocols, regular drills and continued training was something that united a crew, kept them sharp particularly during long periods of inactivity on journeys from one side of the known Galaxy to the other.

It gave them all a common reference point and contributed significantly to unit cohesion. Common meal times in the mess hall had seen crew members mixing much more. They obviously hung out in groups around their areas of operation but as time went on there were also groupings around common interests.

The Krogan were as interested in sports and gambling as a lot of the Human and Turian crew members. Asari interests were wide ranging and they could be seen now in most of the social groups on the ship.

The other races on the ship were also integrating well with the only work group who seemed to stick together being the science team but then they were a multi species group anyway.

Shepard completed her inspection with her executive officer at her side in the galley where the duty cooks were preparing the evenings meal. She had put one of her Asari commando’s, Kam Detah, in charge of catering. The Asari had carried out the same duties when she had served in the Citadel fleet and had transformed the operation on the Normandy.

The duty cooks were now volunteers who had an interest or experience in catering and although coming mainly from the Asari and Human crew they drew on a wide range of food traditions. They now had fresh provisions as often as possible and a constant supply of herbs and spices.

“Carry on Chief,” Shepard said returning Kam Detah’s salute, “Do you have everything you need?”

“Yes thank you Commander the cooler units we’ve just installed up here will save going down to the main storage on the hangar deck as often which is a great time saver.”

Her inspections completed Shepard headed for her cabin with a spring in her step and once in the elevator she allowed a smile to play on her lips. Inside her cabin she peeled off her cap and punched a call into the QEC installed at the end of her desk and waited for the call to be answered.

Within a few moments a light display sparked into life next to the desk and as quantum particles coalesced into an image Shepard’s bondmate appeared in front of her tantalisingly close yet so far away.

“Darling how are you,” Liara smiled starting to reach out to the holographic image in front of her as did Shepard.

“We really need to invest in hard light projections,” Shepard smiled and answered, “I’m fine, pretty glad to be heading home for the refit.”

Asari military engineers had been working on improvements to the Turian designed cannon, the Normandy’s ‘big gun’, which had wrecked such damage on the Collector ship they had brought down.

But they had still needed the help of ground artillery and they would be on their own where they were going.

“I have missed you,” Liara said softly and Shepard ached to take her lover in her arms, to feel her warmth, the smell of her skin.

“I can’t wait and I’ll show you how much I’ve missed you as soon as I can get my hands on you,” Shepard spoke in a low voice that was charged with need and desire.

Liara blushed a little as her body responded to her lover’s call, “Even light years away you light a fire in my body only your touch can satisfy.”

Shepard gave her bondmate a huge grin, “yeah that was the general idea.”

“I think I may just hold you hostage in my bed Commander until I am done with you,” Liara laughed and the sound was like balm to Shepard’s troubled soul.

They exchanged news and talked for a while about the baby’s progress and then about the blossoming romance between James and Kasumi.

“I only wish my sister could be as happy as I am Shepard,” Liara said and Shepard took a moment to marvel at the sheer ordinary, everyday conversation they were having.

Talking about work, friends and family like billions of other couples in the galaxy and although the burden and the nightmares were still real they were pushed to the edge of her awareness by the glorious normality of her relationship with Liara.

“Shepard,” Liara said with concern on her face and in her voice, “you seemed to drift off.”

“Oh sorry Lee I was just, it’s hard to explain, just talking about ordinary things

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