Shepard would normally settle for a more practical training session. Taking her pick of an assault rifle and going to town on a bunch of old, busted up target dummies. Today, she felt inclined to let her frustrations out a little.
It had been only hours ago that she had lost Ashley. Even if she was hot-headed and a little racist towards the aliens on board, Shepard had always considered her an ally. A friend, more so. Making the decision – between her and Kaidan – had been difficult. Soul-crushing. Something Shepard had feared happening more than once, though this time it actually did.
Back on Akuze, that was all different. She lost everyone and there was never a choice in the matter. Today, she had sent a member of her squad to their death.
And that was all on her.
So, instead of shooting some targets that couldn’t give her the satisfaction she needed, Shepard was in a tank top. Loose pants. Fists up in front of her, eyeing up a punching bag with an intense fixation.
Every swing, every knuckle that was bruising - it never seemed to be enough. It only made her angry. A sudden need to hit harder, faster, without technique overcame her. However, this was short lived, as she heard a crack in her left hand.
‘Shit!’ she staggers back, cradling her hand to her chest.
Turning toward the door, she spots Liara, holding a datapad in her hand. Her face shows concern, though Shepard’s been getting that since the mission ended. She looks away, moving toward the medi-gel dispenser.
‘If you’ve come to apologise, don’t bother, Liara,’ Shepard says.
It comes out harsher than she intended.
Liara walks towards her, places the datapad down, and whispers, ‘I won’t, then. But I know that Ashley would have forgiven you. She knew the dangers going in, Shepard, and I… I want you to know that… I’m here if you need to talk to someone.’
Ignoring that, Shepard begins wrapping up her hand, only to find blue fingers taking over. She lets Liara bandage her hand, silently, without another word. Nothing came to mind anyway.
‘I…’ Shepard begins, lump in her throat. She gulps it down. ‘I thought I could save them both.’
After Liara’s finished, her hands stay in Shepard’s for a while. Shepard waits for her to move them, but she doesn’t. So, Shepard holds tighter.
‘You did all you could.’
Liara rests her head on Shepard's shoulder, and in return, Shepard wastes no time going straight in for a hug. They stay like that, in the training room, for what feels like centuries.
‘Thank you, Liara.’ Shepard pulls back, leans against one of the tables with her good hand. ‘Did you come in here for anything in particular?’
‘Well, I did want to apologise, but—’
There’s a thick, heavy silence. It sits with them like a weight. For a moment they stare at each other, and Shepard wishes she could talk to her properly. Words just seem so pointless, so does everything else.
Liara brings the datapad up again. ‘But, I also had information regarding Saren to give you.’
Shepard takes the datapad off of her, skims through the words. ‘It’s been a long day. For all of us. I might pick this up again tomorrow.’
‘Of course, Shepard,’ she replies. ‘Can I get you anything?’
‘No, you deserve a break.’
With a nod, and a sombre look, Liara walks straight out of the room.
Shepard switches the datapad off and follows a couple minutes later, passing crew members who look at with sympathetic glances. Pressly attempts to say a few words, but Shepard, bluntly, tells him she’s not interested.
When she reaches her cabin, she goes straight to bed. Clothes still on, a gun still clipped to her belt.
All she can think about is Ashley, and the overwhelming guilt in her gut.
Shepard has not slept for days. Eating has become a chore. Kaidan brought some food up to her cabin yesterday. He talked to her about the first time they met Ashley on Eden Prime. Shepard thought it felt like so long ago.
The squad has had small missions here and there since Ashley died. Shepard can’t bring herself to talk about it, but she is making slow progress. Deep down, she knows that if Ashley was there, she would tell her commander to stop being a baby. To get over herself. Shepard, laying in her bed, staring at the wall, thinks that Ashley would probably be right. She usually was.
There’s a small knock on her cabin door.
Shepard sits up, tells them to come in. Her favourite and only Asari on the Normandy enters, a small smile on her face.
‘Liara,’ she greets.
Shepard, having not slept properly for days, felt somewhat like mud. Though she puts on her best smile, trying to look somewhat presentable.
Liara places her hands behind her back. ‘I just wondered if you were okay. You missed dinner again.’
‘Wasn’t hungry.’ Shepard rests against her headboard, staring at Liara. ‘Why are you really here?’
‘I worry about you, Shepard,’ Liara confesses. ‘I know this might not be the best time, but I feel a certain way about you. Connected, sort of. Uh… What I’m trying to say is that I care about you, and I suppose I just want to make sure you’re alright.’
‘I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.’
Liara shakes her head, approaching the bed. She sits on the edge. ‘Shepard, you don’t have to lie to me. I want to talk to you, and be close to you.'
‘Me too. I feel... Safe with you, Liara. Calm.’ Shepard says. There's a brief silence, Shepard can tell Liara is waiting for her to talk. To get things off her chest, after days of radio silence. Shepard sighs, ‘The crew should be angry with me. I could have saved both of them. I could have sent someone to help Ashley, and I didn’t. I was too focused on the mission to think about anything else.'
'You did what anyone else would have done,' she says. 'Nobody ever wants to be in that position, Shepard. You made a choice, a difficult one, and nobody is blaming you except for yourself.'
'Maybe you're right.'
Shepard starts sliding down the headboard until she's laying on her side. Tired, after everything. Guilt is still picking away at her, but with Liara beside her it feels almost tolerable. Liara moves from the side of the med, out of Shepard's line of sight. A few second later, there’s a dip in the bed behind her, and Liara’s warm hands are embracing her.
‘Are you spooning me, T’Soni?’ she asks. 'Is this what you meant about being closer to me?'
'Be quiet, Shepard.’ Even without looking, Shepard can see the embarrassed look she carries from time to time. Liara presses herself against Shepard’s back. ‘There was nothing you could have done. Nothing. Please, don’t beat yourself up.’
As she says the last part, Liara caresses Shepard’s bandaged hand. She’s so warm, and Shepard can’t help but notice the blue, too. So beautiful. After a minute or so of staring, it becomes relaxing. Intoxicating, almost, to feel and see Liara so close to her.
Shepard closes her eyes.
All she can think about is Liara.