Chapter 2

En-route T’Soni Estate, Thessia

Tash left for Thessia almost immediately after the Memorial service quickly squaring away her duties on the Normandy.

Most of the crew were taking leave on Earth and the Normandy was having major upgrades to its hull as well as some routine maintenance.  Joker was, of course, staying on board to oversee the work.

Looking out the window of the shuttle she cast her mind back to a conversation that took place with Miranda a few days before they had arrived in Vancouver.  The vid call had not lasted long but had left her with some real concerns and unanswered questions.

“So were you able to help,” Tash had gotten straight to the point as her relationship with Miranda was still a little strained as they had originally both been in the Illusive man’s employ and Tash had been sent by him to ensure Miranda’s loyalty.

Although Tash had been undercover for the Alliance Intelligence Services that hadn’t stopped her from threatening Miranda but she had also tried to warn her of the danger she, and her sister, were in.

“Yes, but her healers were not happy about me being called in for a consultation.”

“And?” Tash prompted unable to hide her irritation.

“I had a long talk with Liselle and she decided on a treatment plan using my very experimental nanites.”

“What the fuck does that mean Miranda… could you pull off one of your miracles or not?” Tash didn’t mean to sound annoyed but she had suggested calling in Miranda to Liselle and as such felt completely responsible for whatever treatment had come from the consultation.

“It means you need to talk to Liselle yourself.  And I don’t perform miracles Tash there are limits to what science can do.  In answer to your question yes, against my better judgment, I carried out the treatment and it has made a considerable difference… but everything comes at a cost.”

Tash narrowed her eyes and was about to launch into a questioning tirade but Miranda cut her off, “I have a transport to catch.  I’ll see you when I try to pin Shepard down for another treatment.”

The shuttle was making its final approach to the estate’s landing area and Tash took a deep breath.  She had missed Liselle so much the last few months and their contact had been sporadic because of the Normandy’s missions and Liselle’s treatments.

But she had almost a week to spend with the young Asari she loved deeply and they had a lot to talk about.

As soon as she felt the shuttle settle on the landing pad Tash grabbed her bag and headed for the exit.  The doors opened flooding the shuttle with bright sunlight, stepping out she hit a wall of hot balmy air.

Her uniform was winter dress given she had come from Vancouver. It felt heavy and far too thick for the weather.  Undoing a couple of buttons as she walked quickly to the front steps of the T’Soni private residence the sweat was already gathering under her cap and on her forehead.

Moving from the bright sunshine into the darker and cooler hall it took a few moments for Tash’s eyes to adjust but when they did what she saw melted her heart and brought a huge grin to her face.

Liselle was standing at the bottom of the wide staircase, leaning on a walking stick, with a smile that for Tash was brighter and more warming than the sun.

Dropping her bag Tash closed the distance between them and walked into Liselle’s open arm and held her lover in a tight embrace.

“Welcome home,” Liselle whispered in Tash’s ear.

Tash took a deep breath and inhaled the familiar scent, “I’ve missed you so much Leece,” pulling her head back so she could look into her lover’s face she continued, “you’re up and standing… walking… should you be?”

Liselle leaned in and kissed the worried looking human gently at first but as desire tore through their bodies the kiss deepened. When they broke apart they were both a little breathless.

“Let’s go up to my room we have a lot of catching up to do Mikhailovich,” Liselle’s voice was soft and husky with desire.

Tash smiled but thought she heard a faint edge of something unfamiliar in Liselle’s voice.

Liselle leaned on Tash’s arm going up the stairs and at the top continued along the guest wing corridor stopping at the first door.  Walking into the which was airy and bright, a huge change to the medbay Liselle was in when Tash left.

Tash pushed the door shut with her foot and joined Liselle by the bed. They stood facing each other for a few moments before Liselle dipped her head and said very quietly, “I have no idea how to do this.”

“How about we just lie down so I can hold you,” as she spoke Tash reached out for one of Liselle’s hands and gently pulled her onto the bed.

They lay on the bed facing each other and Tash kissed one of the hands she was holding as she looked into troubled blue eyes trying to work out what was going on for her usually very direct and confident Asari while stroking one of her girlfriends’ cheeks with the back of her fingers.

Liselle tightened her grip on Tash’s hip and leaned in for a kiss that was light and soft,  almost tenuous and when they parted Tash said softly, “Leece, I have no idea how hard this is for you but it’s us… you and me… we’ll work it out together… talk to me babe.”

“It feels so different Tasha,” pausing and biting her bottom lip Liselle’s voice held pain and uncertainty that cut Tash like a knife, “I… I don’t know how to move past not being able to join with you. What if it doesn’t work anymore? I mean what if you… it’s not the same anymore.”

Tash now realised the edge she had heard in her lover’s voice earlier and again now was fear and uncertainty.

Tash weighed her words carefully and trying to keep her voice as neutral as possible while a storm of fear started to rise in the pit of her stomach, “you know how I feel about you Leece, but… if you need to be with another Asari… I just want you to be happy and…”

Liselle put her fingers to Tash’s lips to stop her speaking as she said, “no you idiot I want you, need you, I just don’t know how to do this… you know what it was like when we joined.  I could feel you as an echo in my body so I knew where you needed me to touch you.  We shared thoughts; understood each other without words.”

Tash held Liselle’s hand and kissed the inside of her lovers’ wrist saying gently, “same for me babe, I could feel you, always knew how you needed me to love you.”

“Then when we got closer we shared our emotions as well as our physical connection, the deepest connection…” Liselle seemed to be trail off, “we won’t have that again Tasha, I feel so separate from you right now and I hate it.”

“Do you feel separate from me all the time?”

“No,” Liselle said with a smile and ran her fingers through Tash’s hair.

Tash pushed away her own insecurity about making love with Liselle without the meld to guide her and pulled her lover close so that their bodies were touching and with a smile on her lips began to kiss Liselle.

Slowly, tenderly, feeling Liselle’s soft full lips on her own and was rewarded with a moan of pleasure from her lover. She explored Liselle’s mouth and when their tongues found each other Tash felt a flash of desire rip through her body.

She began to explore the folds of sensitive flesh on the back of Liselle’s neck with her left hand and felt her lovers’ hips push forward as another moan of pleasure escaped Liselle as Tash deepened her kisses.

Tash unlaced the leather top expertly and pushed it apart and gave her own moans of pleasure as she cupped the heaving breasts feeling Liselle’s hard nipples against the palm of her hand.

She shifted her weight and pushed Liselle onto her back moving between her lovers’ thighs begin to grind her sex against Tash.  Feeling the wetness from her lover’s core even through her trousers Tash felt another pulse of desire and the need to fuck Liselle hard, to be inside Liselle was all that filled her mind.

Their breath became ragged and Tash felt her clit throb, the tension building in her core.  Tash traced kisses down her lovers face and her neck drawing moans from Liselle as her hips moved more and more quickly against Tash.

“You make me so hard,” Tash said breathlessly as she cupped a soft breast and took the hard nipple into her mouth nipping and biting gently.

“Oh shit… Tasha… I’m so wet… need you… touch me,” Liselle her breath catching in her chest as Tash worked her sensitive folds and Liselle’s nipple at the same time.

Tash pulled back a little so she could see Liselle’s face, “tell me… tell me what you want Leece.”

Liselle’s face was flushed, she was writhing underneath Tash, moans escaping her with everything thrust, her eyes were hooded with lust, “fuck me Tasha… need you to fuck me… goddess I’m on fire…”

Tash moved her hand between them and undid Liselle’s leather trousers, making sure to keep eye contact, Tash pulled off the trousers making sure to take Liselle’s panties with them and when Liselle was naked Tash let her eyes take in the sight of her swollen and very wet lover a long low moan, almost a growl, escaping the human as she did.

Tash fought the desire to take her lover with her mouth, instead she quickly pulled her own trousers off and laid back in between Liselle’s legs drawing a moan from them both as they made contact heat to heat.

Liselle raised her knees and encouraged Tash’s thrusts with her hands on her lovers’ tight butt and they fell into a rhythm as they once again kissed deeply exploring every part of the wet warmth of their mouths with their tongues.

Tash worked Liselle’s nipples knowing how sensitive they were.  Breaking apart for air, she once again held Liselle’s eyes, “look at me Leece… fuck you’re turning me on so much… so wet and hard… I need to come Leece, you’re gonna make me come…”

Liselle’s breath caught in her throat and she moaned as she thrust even harder into Tash, “touch me Tasha, I need you… going to explode… need to come with you…”

It was a new experience for them to watch each other, hold each other’s gaze.  When Liselle had joined with Tash the meld took them to a different, internal space, but of course making love without a sexual meld wasn’t new to Tash and she drew on all her experience to keep drawing Liselle in.

Tash felt the throbbing in her core and knew she wasn’t far away from orgasm and knew Liselle was in the same place so she moved a hand once again between them, down over the muscled abdomen, further down edging the pulsing heat of her lover and began tracing her fingers down and then up the inside of Liselle’s thigh pulling gasps from her lover.

“Mmm, yes… need you… fuck Tasha I’m so close…”

“You’re so hot and wet… you’re gonna come for me Leece,” Tash said gruffly now losing control and running her fingers closer and closer to the hard, sensitive bud that was pulsing with need and as hard as her own.

“Oooh… fuck Tasha… need to come…” Liselle said her breath catching in her chest.

Tash felt the last of her control rip away on another surge of desire and her own throbbing need and moved her fingers to Liselle’s clit and began to massage in wide circles.

“Oh yeah… yeah… there… don’t stop…”

“Shit you’re so ready…”

“Mmm… oooh…” Liselle’s was panting with desire and pushed her hips forward to meet Tash’s fingers.

Tash knew they were close to climax, “look at me babe… you’re gonna make me come.”

They locked eyes as Tash moved her fingers faster and faster, harder and harder taking in the soft folds of Liselle’s core as she continued to stroke the length of her lovers’ clit.

“Oh yeah… going to come… making me…” Liselle’s body went rigid and Tash watched her eyes roll up as she let out a loud moan that was almost a shout and she felt the clit under fingers twitch and pulse.

“Fuck yeah…” Tash managed to say as she too followed Liselle into orgasm.

But before Liselle had finished riding out the spasms of her orgasm Tash pushed her fingers into Liselle’s core and began pumping in and out using her hips to give her fingers extra thrust.

Liselle shouted loudly a mixture of surprise and pleasure and moved her hips to meet Tash’s fingers as she wrapped her legs around her lovers’ strong thighs, raking her nails up and down Tash’s back.

“Come for me Leece…”

“Mmm…” Liselle moaned and then locking eyes with Tash said, “come inside me… come with me.”

Tash lost all that remained of her self-control and felt her clit explode for the second time, her legs going rigid as her muscles tensed, the release burning through her on a tide of pleasure.

A moment later she felt Liselle tighten around her fingers and the burst of wetness that accompanied her lovers’ orgasm pushing past her fingers in sweet release.

Tash rested her head in the warmth of Liselle’s neck and as their breath steadied she heard Liselle take a deep breath and let it out almost in a sigh.

Raising her head so she could watch Liselle’s face she said with a huge grin, “well I don’t know about you but I think we managed that ok.”

Liselle moved a hand to cover the one Tash still had inside her and arched her brows, “ok… just ok,” then with a smile, “thank you for reminding me how good at this we are.”

Tash leaned in and kissed Liselle tenderly, “all the stuff we kinda just thought at each other through the meld we just need to remember to say out loud… I mean I know that’s not the only difference,” she saw Liselle’s face look worried and carried on quickly, “but I feel just as close to you Leece… I love you… hell you could make me come with just a look and some dirty talk half the time.”

Liselle laughed and Tash felt as if she could truly relax for the first time since Omega.

In a swift and expert movement Liselle flipped Tash over onto her back and straddled her lover.  With a huge smile she said, “So Mikhailovich my turn and I am so going to make you beg for me to let you come.”

Tash’s breath caught in her chest and a lazy smile settled on her face, “bring it on T’Loak.”

As they made love and explored each other they found a new connection, a new sense of being one without the meld.

Only when their longing and desire was sated did they fall asleep wrapped in each other’s arms and a peace that was familiar and very welcome.

Tash stirred feeling the weight of a leg across her thighs and a familiar head tucked into her neck. She sighed deeply and let a wide smile settle on her face.

Breathing in her lovers scent she kissed the still sleeping Liselle on the head and gently moved to the side of the bed.  Once standing up she took a moment to drink in the sight of her naked lover. Her smile faded a little as she noticed how thin and pale Liselle was.

By her reckoning it was late afternoon so it had been about three hours since her arrival. The room was warm even with the doors to the balcony open wide but Tash pulled the light sheet over her sleeping lover anyway.

She gave Liselle a soft kiss on the cheek. Then as quietly as possible she pulled a pair of sweatpants, a vest and some shoes from her bag threw them on quickly and left the room.

Tash wanted to know how Liselle had really been and not in medical speak.  She also needed to find a friend and give what comfort she could for her loss.

As Tash exited the lift in the Broker comms centre she saw Kasumi immediately working at one of the terminals.

“Hey,” Tash didn’t really know what to say and wasn’t sure she had anything to offer as in the past it had always been Kasumi handing out the support and advice.

There had been times on the Normandy when Tash was in real danger of falling back into the worst of her self destructive behaviour and Kasumi had reached out to support and challenge her.

It was an unusual friendship; the two could not be more different, a spiritual engineer and a jaded, cynical merc but it worked.

When Kasumi looked up the hood she almost always wore in public cast a shadow over her eyes and Tash wasn’t greeted with one of her friends’ legendary smiles.

“Let’s get some air you look as if you haven’t seen sunlight in months,” Tash said with a small smile.

Kasumi just nodded and they moved in silence until they were outside the house and standing in the late afternoon sun.

“I’m sorry we had to just take off and didn’t get back…”

Kasumi turned to Tash and gave her a sad smile, “nonsense you have nothing to apologise for.  There was really nothing you could do, we had to save Shep,” she turned away and looked across at the fields beyond the gardens.

“Is there any hope that he’s still alive?  If Liara made it out…” Tash left her sentence hanging.

“Let’s walk,” was Kasumi’s only reply.

As they began walking something prompted Tash to put her arm around Kasumi’s shoulder who responded by leaning in.

“It’s not as if I knew him… was with him all that long,” Kasumi said.

“Sometimes it only takes a moment.  He was a sweet kid and grew into being a kind man; we’re all going to miss him.”

“I sometimes forget you must have known him when you were all growing up.”

“Not as much as LV knew him, but I remember a couple of times we were all back in Vancouver at school the same time and you know how that Skaarsgord clan like to hang together,” Tash smiled at the memory of happy times in her otherwise bleak childhood.

They walked on in silence the sound of the gravel path crunching under their feet.

“I really believe he was my soul mate, I… I feel as if I am grieving not just for what we had but the lifetime that should have been.”

Tash tightened her arm around Kasumi’s shoulder for a moment and noticing a seat ahead said, “Shall we sit for a while.”

Once they were sitting Tash asked, “Is there anything I can do to help?”

Kasumi dropped her hood back onto her shoulders and looked at Tash, “only time will help dull the pain.  But I have to say it is nice to meet the real Tash,” she finished with a smile.

“Yeah well I don’t know about that.  The other one was, is, still me.”

“We all have our demons, Tash, and our dark sides.  How was it with Liselle?”

Tash gave her friend a broad grin, “are we back to you analysing me already Kas.”

She looked out across the garden in front of them but she wasn’t seeing the carefully arranged swathes of colour or smelling the delicate scents drifting on the still warm air.

Tash’s thoughts were back with Liselle and their love making, “it was completely different… but the same,” Tash shook her head slightly, “I know that doesn’t make any sense. For me it was like going back to how it used to work… before sleeping with Asari’s.”

“It will be harder for Liselle; do you know how she felt?”

Tash leaned forward and rested her arms on her knees.  The bright sunlight seemed to scour the deepest corners of her mind, “no she was still asleep when I got up,” looking at the ground Tash realised something; “she talked to you about this didn’t she.”

“It was one of the many things we have talked about yes.  She loves you Tash and her fear is she won’t be able to connect with you the way you need without the meld.”

“How do I fix that,” she sat back up and looked at Kasumi.

“Oh Tash you can’t.  You’ll both have to remake your connection the way Liselle is remaking the connections in her brain.  But you both love each other so all you need is patience and faith.”

“Faith,” Tash rolled the word’s meaning around in her mind, “strange word to use.  I don’t think I have faith in anything considering all the shit that happens to good people for no fucking reason.”

Kasumi reached a hand out and squeezed Tash’s shoulder, “faith in each other, faith in those who love you.  I am so sorry for you loss Tash, I know Hannah was like a mother to you.”

Tash turned her eyes to the horizon clenching her jaw her lips set in a hard line.  The tears burned behind her eyes but she fought them back, all she could do was to give a short nod of her head.

“You must allow yourself to grieve.”

Tash got control of her emotions and said quietly, “I don’t have any right to do that, I wasn’t… you know we executed my… father,” Tash spat the last word out with venom.

Kasumi nodded choosing not to challenge Tash about her right to grieve and let her talk.

“Well it’s all messed up together… and then there’s Leece,” Tash turned to look at Kasumi her grey eyes burning and bright, “I think I fucked up sending Lawson over.  What happened Kas, how has Liselle been, she still looks so thin.”

“Well until Miranda arrived, about two weeks ago, Liselle was still pretty much stuck in bed and only had minimum use of her right side,” Kasumi sighed, “I don’t think any of her healers believe that the treatment she had was a good idea and I know Lady Nara is very concerned about the consequences.”

Tash had the overwhelming urge to move, do something, run away. Then realised she wanted to hit someone, not just someone; she wanted to hurt herself for screwing up yet again.

Kasumi’s laid a hand on Tash’s forearm and said softly, “you know Liselle would not have survived living as she was.  You have given her a great gift and it was her choice.”

Tash nodded her head but still felt the weight of her guilt and her need to protect Liselle from any more harm like a cold chip of ice in her heart.

Liselle’s bedroom, T’Soni private residence, T’Soni estate, Thessia

Tash knew she would need to speak to High Priestess El’Estrene at some point as she was in charge of Liselle’s healing team and therefore was overseeing her recovery.  But right now she just wanted to be with the young Asari.

Balancing the tray on her arm she opened the door and quietly put it down on the long glass shelf that was beneath the vid screen on the wall opposite the bed.

She sat on the edge of the bed and stroked the familiar blue cheek with her fingers, “hey babe”.

Liselle stirred and sighed as she uncurled her body rolling onto her back.

“You’re up,” she said sleepily, “fuck that was the best sleep I’ve had in a long time,” she smiled up at Tash.

“You are the prettiest thing in the whole dammed universe,” Tash said softly then moved to get the tray, “now sit up and have some tea and something to eat, healers orders.”

“On the terrace,” Liselle said as she started to get out of bed.

Once settled at the small table, tea poured and food in front of them Tash was about to broach the subject of Miranda’s treatment, but Liselle spoke first.

“Will it be enough for you,” Liselle was playing with the food on her plate not looking up.

“Will what… you mean… couldn’t you tell,” Tash said with a smile and reached across for Liselle’s hand. “This is what I’m used to… no that’s not… it was different of course… fuck Leece it was amazing, it always is,” Tash ground to a halt and noticed a glint in Liselle’s eyes.  A glint she hadn’t seen in what felt like a long time.

Trying to hide the smile tracing her lips Liselle said, “Goddess Tasha we have to get better at this,” she took a deep breath, “I can’t sense you anymore… can’t share your feelings without a meld. So the same way now we have to tell each other what we need when we were having sex I need you to tell me what’s going on for you.”

Tash nodded and tried to work out where to start.

“You know me better than anyone Leece, I think you know me better than I do myself… with or without the meld,” Tash smiled at the young Asari across the table.

“I have no idea how I feel about my fathers’… execution. I feel broken up inside about Aunt Hannah.  LV is in such a dark place we’re all just holding on tight and hope she finds her way out the other side,” Tash took Liselle’s hands in her own and leaned in, “but all of that pales into the shadows when I think about losing you and I need you to tell me what risk I’ve put you in sending Miranda Lawson to you.”

They sat in silence for a few moments and Tash could tell Liselle was thinking as she was biting her bottom lip in a way that was so familiar to the young human it almost brought tears to her eyes.

“My recovery was going to take years, it would have been months before I’d even re-learnt enough to talk fluently or even get out of that damn bed,” Liselle held Tash’s eyes as she continued to speak, “Do you believe the Reapers are as big a threat as Shepard says they are… that we’re facing the end of everything?”

Tash nodded slowly and waited for her lover to carry on.

“I don’t have the time to recover the Asari way and there is no way I’m sitting out the fight.  Do you really see me dying in a bed Tasha?”

Tash didn’t know what to say and felt her jaw tighten as all she could do was to give Liselle a shake of the head.

“No, and you wouldn’t either if you had an option.  You gave me a gift Tasha and I know you’ll blame yourself if anything goes wrong,” Liselle caught the look of pain that settled on her lover’s face, “you gave me my life back… twice,” she finished with a smile.

Tash moved from her chair to kneel in front of the young Asari and looking up into the clear blue eyes and asked, “What’s the downside Leece, I need to know.”

Liselle held Tash’s face in her hands and spoke quietly, “There is no way of knowing how long the nanites will keep working.  Could be years or it… could be weeks.”

“So if they fail do you just lose the progress?” Tash felt the breath freeze in her chest waiting for the answer.

Liselle took a steadying breath, “Miranda can’t predict that as they were designed for a human brain and Asari’s are a little different.  But the consensus between Miranda and the healers is that… well it will be like lots of little explosions going off in my head.”

The birdsong seemed to grow louder, the breeze rustling the leaves and the sound of water from one of the many fountains in the gardens filled the silence between them.

Tash collapsed into Liselle wrapping her arms around the still too thin body and pressing her head against her lovers’ chest.

Resting her chin on the top of the fair head and running finger through Tash’s hair Liselle looked out across at the tree line then lifted her eyes to the clear blue sky.

Liselle felt her lovers’ pain almost as clearly as if she was still able to join her mind to the humans.  But she knew she’d done the right thing.  None of them would survive the coming invasion and she wanted to be right next to Tash when the end came.

Abandoned Asari research station, unknown location

Liara had been meditating for most of the day which meant Shiala had given her privacy.

She had been practising the same meditation for weeks and it was the polar opposite of anything Liara had ever been taught by any Asari priestess.

Pushing deep into the corner of her mind and soul where she had finally banished the broken and unrecognisable personality Liara had inhabited after losing Shepard she was honing an avatar of herself into which she could transform.

Liara had felt the stealth melds that Shiala practised occasionally and it had taken all the mental strength she had to block her captor from her real thoughts.

A full meld, which is what would eventually happen, would allow Shiala to see right through any kind of surface deception. And so Liara knew she had to truly transform into her former self if she was to have any chance of escaping from this torture.

Placing her palms on her now very swollen belly Liara wished she could do what all Asari mothers did and lightly join with her daughter on an emotional level.  One more thing the collar blocked her from doing.

“I will do anything to get you back to safety my daughter,” Liara knew that it would take damaging a piece of her mind and soul to cheat Shiala but if that’s what she had to sacrifice she would.

Liara heard a light tap on the door and without waiting for a response Shiala walked in the room.

“You take too many liberties Shiala I will not tolerate such disrespect,” Liara said in a hard and cold tone staring down her kidnapper.

Shiala looked both taken aback and pleased.  Liara had been channelling her old self for the last two weeks and was able to stay in that place for longer and longer periods, and always when she was in Shiala’s company.

“I am truly sorry Lady Liara but we may not have as much time as I had hoped,” Shiala stood in the doorway but Liara could feel the other Asari’s lust bleeding into the edge of an unwelcome intrusion into her mind.

Liara walked over and grabbed Shiala by the throat then kissed the matron hard their tongues meeting sending a shockwave of lust through their bodies, leaving them both breathless.

“Do you think you are the only one who has needs Shiala,” Liara pushed the older Asari out of the way and left the bedroom.

Shiala followed her and before they had reached the main living space Liara found herself pinned against the wall of the corridor hands searching her body and the sensitive folds on her neck.

Liara searched deep for memories of their previous sexual encounters and let them flood her mind as Shiala, unbidden, pulled them both into a sexual meld.

Perhaps it was the isolation, the shock, the weeks and weeks of grief or the work she had done finding a way back to her former self but Liara was able to respond as she had in those dark times.

Liara could sense Shiala reaching a point of no return so blocked her mind as best she could to the meld at the same time pushing the matron hard sending her into the wall on the opposite side of the corridor.

“I am not some cheap dancer you can fuck in a corridor Shiala.  I grow tired of your games,” Liara walked away without a backward look.

Sitting in one of the more comfortable chairs in the large common area she watched Shiala enter the room.  Her captor looked sullen but sat where Liara indicated without question.

“What exactly are we doing here Shiala?  While my estate, my Republic is left leaderless?  Whatever influence Shepard had over me has long since dissipated and for that I will accept and forgive your previous actions,” Liara leaned forward a little and narrowed her eyes, “But to continue to keep me here any longer serves no useful purpose and makes me question your state of mind.”

“But you left me to rot and bonded with that…”

Liara cut across the older Asari to try to avoid her usual deranged ranting.

“I almost died trying to rescue you.”

“And then you didn’t try again you… you and Shepard…”

“I had a complete breakdown after losing you to the Broker. I had to spend time at the Temple dealing with my loss and grief…”

“Yes for Shepard,” Shiala jumped out of the seat her eyes wild and her face contorted by rage and grief in equal measure.

“Shiala you really do need to get control of your mind.  You are of no use to me if you are still too damaged by your captivity with the Broker,” Liara said dismissively and turned her attention to a data pad containing a limited library of Asari fiction.

“I’m not… then why…”

Liara snapped her attention back to Shiala.  Her tone was icy, “I am not proud that because of my state of mind I fell under the influence of a human. Even though Shepard had returned I still needed to spend time at the Temple so she was obviously not the cause of my grief.”

Shiala’s agitation faded away and she spoke more calmly, “So she did take you from me.”

“Well whatever happened it is over now and I must get back to Thessia and my duties,” Liara didn’t push any harder, they had had this conversation several times over the last week but each time Shiala had become too unstable to reach any conclusion.

Shiala moved quickly kneeling in front of Liara and rested her head her lap.  Liara pushed the edge of disgust from her mind and gently stroked the soft folds at the back of Shiala’s head.

“We should be bonded before we go back to Thessia,” Shiala looked up adoringly at Liara, “we can do it here before we leave.  You can break your bond with Shepard and…”

Liara couldn’t stop the breath catching in her chest and cutting across Shiala too quickly, “she is alive… you told me she was dead.”

Shiala jumped to her feet, “see you still care… you are not purged of her influence… she still has a hold on you through her daughter.”

Knowing they were back in very dangerous territory Liara opened the door in her mind to the damaged part of her personality and let it take her over.

“Galine if you insult me once more with this nonsense you will not even have a place in my household let alone in my bed.  You have no idea how vulnerable you have left my interests in the Republic, she is my legal bondmate or are you a complete idiot?”  Liara brushed aside Shiala’s response and moved to stand face to face with the taken aback matron.

“The Matriarchs also made her a fucking citizen of Thessia which means unlike any other non Asari she can inherit property on Thessia,” Liara saw understanding dawn on Shiala’s face, “and I need to break the bond as publicly as I made it… you are a fool Shiala and unless we go back immediately we will lose everything my mother built.”

Liara turned away from Shiala fighting to stay in the moment feeling the edge of a stealth meld testing her mind.

“We will return to Thessia in the morning,” Shiala reached a hand out and touched Liara’s neck, “but we must go back together Liara, truly together.”

Liara knew exactly what Shiala meant and without turning around tried one last time to put off what she was dreading most, “really Shiala you want our first joining after being apart to be in this dreadful place on some alien planet.”

Shiala pulled Liara round to face her and held her gently around the waist, “wherever you are is a palace to me… and we are on Thessia,” she said with a smile.

Chapter 2