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Ashes Of Life

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Liara stepped into the Captain's Cabin for the first time in three months. Her footsteps sounded loud in the silence of the room. She took in the room. It looked just as it had when Shepard occupied it. Nothing was damaged from the crash landing Joker had to make when the Crucible blast caught them. The fish and the hamster turned to her presence as she slowly made her way deeper into the cabin. Starved for attention from a sentient being, they curiously watched her until they deemed her presence normal and went about their business, content to let her wander.

The asari remembered asking Shepard once why she kept the animals as pets. Her lips momentarily quirked at the answer the human had given her. The hamster made her feel warm and fuzzy; the fish were pretty to look at. The human's voice had been laced with amusement as she teased the asari. Shepard had laughed at her dumbfounded expression before wrapping her arms around Liara and kissing the expression away.

Placing a hand on the cool glass of the aquarium, the scientist recalled the moment of honesty that had followed. The soldier had stated the real reason. They're easy, she had said with a crooked smile, if anything happened to me they wouldn't miss me. They have the automated system that will feed and clean them. I am wholly unnecessary. Liara's expression turned grim. Her hand rubbed at the ache under her sternum she could not seem to reach.

A heavy sigh escaped her as she tried to quell the overwhelming emotion clawing at her soul. The room looked as if Shepard had simply stepped out on a routine mission and would return at any moment. The bed was made, Shepard's last reports were sitting on the desk by the couch, her personal consule blinked notifying unread messages, the model ships hung proudly in their racks, the whole atmosphere was one of expectant return. But, Liara knew- she ached with the knowledge- that the Commander would never return. And, the asari was charged with the daunting task of going through her personal effects and deciding what she would like to keep.

The asari knew she would be able to part with nothing. Everything would return with her to Thessia. And then the ship would be under Major Alenko's command. The Normandy was too valuable a ship to decommission and make into a memorial. Liara was pleased she would keep anything of Shepard's she would want.

Another sigh escaped the asari, she could not believe she was returning to Thessia. She wondered if she would see her father. The asari was not sure she wanted any platitudes or overtures of sympathy. Aethyta did not have the right. Liara sighed. Her father was all she had left. Aethyta would offer alcohol and silence; perhaps, she could stand that comfort. She would help with what she could in the rebuilding of her planet and government. She would lose herself in the work until it was done. She would not return to being the Shadow Broker. She could not. Every feed, every data entry, would remind her of Shepard. She had only taken the position to help Shepard defeat the Reapers. Now every moment spent in those shoes would remind her of the woman that was gone.

And without Shepard, like the awful two years after the destruction of the original Normandy, her crew disintegrated. The strain of the Commander's absence was too much to bear. Garrus was on Palavan. Rebuilding. Helping Primarch Victus. He had fled at first opportunity to tend his wounded heart in private. Liara truly understood. She had heard the refrain between the turian and the human plenty enough (even back on the original Normandy): there is no Shepard without Vakarian. They were bound by friendship and fraternity stronger than species or blood.

Tali was on Rannoch. The quarian had hugged Liara fiercely, offering as much support as she could considering she was grieving as deeply as any of the crew. She was no stranger to death: her team on Haestrom, her father, Kal'Reeger, Legion, Shepard. But, Tali had her duty and her newly returned homeworld to stem the sting of loss. Even though Shepard was like a sister to the young quarian, Liara knew she would be able to lay the human to rest. She would honor Shepard by living her life; living the future Shepard had guaranteed the galaxy.

Javik had stayed on board the Normandy. With the defeat of the Reapers, his anger and thirst for vengeance had drained away, leaving a more than decent person in their wake. He had said little more than praise Shepard for her sacrifice and comment on the book they may write together. Liara had been surprised at the understanding. Though, thinking about it, she should have realized that out of everyone, he would understand the most deeply. He was the only person she could stand to be around for any extended period of time. His silence was not suffocating or awkward. He simply knew loss, like Liara was beginning to know loss, and his silent presence was appreciated and not detested.

EDI, Joker, Vega, and Kaidan had all, of course, stayed. They were Alliance. Their duty bound them to the Normandy. Though, as she understood it, Vega was requesting a transfer to Earth. Kaidan was only accepting the commission of the ship because he knew it would have been what Shepard wanted. Joker and EDI could not stand the loss of both Shepard and the Normandy, so Liara knew they would never leave.

Blue eyes stared vacantly at the room. Liara did not want to return to Thessia, but she knew staying would destroy her. She needed to get away. She wanted to go and lose herself in a dig site. Shut out the world and be alone to mourn her loss. Insulated in the solitude of civilizations long dead. Recreating history of peoples whose loss she would never mourn; who only held the fascination of discovery. She wanted to disappear into obscurity and shield her wounded heart from constant reminders of the woman who haunted her.

Her heart squeezed painfully in her chest at all the memories made in the room where she stood. The specter of the human was all over the cabin. Liara could clearly see her at her personal consule answering emails.

Placing her hands over the human's tense shoulders and pressing her thumbs with increasing pressure to relieve some of the tightness, Liara felt Shepard relax beneath her fingers.

"That feels incredible," Shepard groaned her hands falling listlessly into her lap as she bowed her head to give Liara better access.

The asari continued the message in silence, her hands finding and relieving the worst of the human's tension. Leaning down to place a kiss atop Shepard's head, Liara pulled at the soldier to stand so she could make her go to bed, "You can finish that after you've gotten some rest."

Shepard gamely complied, standing and smiling tiredly at the asari. Lacing her arms around Liara's waist, Shepard pulled the scientist to her and kissed her. "I can think of other ways to relieve tension," the soldier's voice rough and deep caused a very pleasant tension to start coiling in Liara's lower abdomen.

"You are entirely too exhausted for such prolonged strenuous activity, Commander," Liara teased, though she was half serious.

"We must be quick about it then, Doctor," Shepard's eyes, though still tired, widened with hunger. Their lips met in sudden desperation. Need consumed them. A trail of clothes followed them to the bed, all discarded in haste, as they tumbled into each other. The coupling was hard and fast; but the sleep was long and peaceful.

The asari shook the memory, her eyes shifting from the consule to hamster who squeaked behind her. She could see Shepard playing with the little mammal that she seemed awfully endeared to. Moving into the sitting area of the room, she could see in her mind's eye the human feeding the variety of fish even though an expensive automated system was in place to clean and feed the fish in the tank. She could see the human sitting on the couch meticulously gluing together her model ships.

"I think you have an obsession with those things," Liara teased. Her lips were quirked in a smile as she walked over from the door to the couch where Shepard was absorbed in the model ship of the Normandy SR-1, her absolute concentration dedicated to it. The human looked up at the words a wide, happy smile taking over her face at the sight of the asari.

"I was just passing the time waiting for you," Shepard said already putting down the half finished model and standing to greet Liara. "These," her hands encompassed the general area where the models hung, "used to be something I did instead of lay awake after a nightmare." Shepard watched as a blue finger gently traced the lines of the Normandy model ship finding the digit entrancing, she swallowed. "The concentration needed to put the pieces together properly took my mind off whatever the dreams had been about," the Commander's voice was soft, non-judgmental but Liara still felt guilt gnaw at her for not being next to the woman to ward off the bad dreams. "But now," Shepard did not allow the asari to fall into a self-castigating mood, she took her in her arms chastely kissing Liara's lips, "now, I've got you, and I just build these to pass the time waiting for you."

Liara squeezed the soldier closer, her smile reflecting Shepard's. It was incongruous that when they were together the whole galaxy slipped away; but, it was how they coped with the threat of annihilation. Liara keenly felt the strain of the day. She was exhausted, and she knew Shepard was exhausted, too. But, they lived on the precipice of the end of their existence. So, despite their exhaustion, they never missed an opportunity to lose themselves in each other. It was their only respite in trying to halt the end of days.

"My obsessions now lie entirely in your arms," Shepard whispered hotly against Liara's lips before capturing the asari's mouth in an open-mouthed kiss.

The scientist found it strange to feel as if those stolen moments comprised an eternity. Liara's heart felt as if it would never love again, it was so completely invested in one person: a human whom she would outlive even under the most peaceful of times. The utter heartbreak, the desolate heartache, was completely illogical. Asari outlived almost every species in the galaxy. They were a species that viewed loss differently. Death, to them, was a part of life; an integral part of the cosmic cycle. But in abject defiance to logic or moving on, Liara's heart shuddered painfully in her chest refuting the logic of ever letting go of Shepard, of the love that bound them. She would never let her go.

Crossing to Shepard's side of the bed, Liara sat heavily. Everything hurt. Turning her head her eyes lighted on a picture on Shepard's night stand. She picked it up. The picture was years old now. It was a simple shot of Liara held close to Shepard, the human's right arm snaked around her waist and her hand possessively holding the asari's hip. Some reporter had taken a shot of the entire crew on the Normandy's CIC after Sovereign's defeat. The original shot had included Joker, Kaidan, Tali, Wrex, Garrus, Shepard and Liara. Shepard cropped out everyone but the asari and herself. Liara traced the Commander's wide smile.

Heart clenching painfully, she put the frame back in its original spot. Her fingers ghosted over the back of the metal, trying to hold the happy memory as long as possible. Liara's brows scrunched in confusion as her index finger bumped against an irregularity. Pushing at the button shaped indentation, Liara was surprised when a neatly hid compartment slid open from the night stand. Shepard did always like mystery and intrigue, the asari thought a smile tugging at her lips despite the pain in her heart.

Slowly moving to inspect the contents of the drawer, Liara felt anxiety grip her. Looking into the drawer, she expelled a sigh of relief. She was not entirely sure what she was expecting to find, but the items seemed benign. The drawer held a graphite pencil and a leather bound book. Picking up the archaic item, Liara wondered at the wear and tear on the small book. It was bent, scuffed and burned on some edges. It looked well worn. Shifting onto the bed and getting comfortable, the asari opened the book to the first page.


Haven't done this in ages, so I'm just flexing my literal and figurative writing muscles. Mom sent me this as a gift for the promotion to Lt. Commander and the position as Captain Anderson's XO. I guess she remembered my predilection for paper and pencil. I gave her a call for Christmas, Dad couldn't be bothered to say hello. God, the man is insufferable! But, I miss them. Hell, might as well be honest here: I really only miss Mom. Working with Anderson has kept me too occupied to really think about the fact I haven't seen her in person for near two years now. Sacrifice she always said. It's worth it, though. Anderson is a task master, but a fair one and he seems thrilled to teach me everything he knows. It's an honor working with him.

A thrill of excitement ran through Liara. She held Shepard's journal in her hands; in whose pages were written the human's private thoughts and emotions. It felt like a monumental discovery, made even more precious by the fact that it belonged to the woman the asari loved. Liara could almost picture Shepard sitting across from her, voice lilting and low, telling her all the things written on the pages of the journal.


The Normandy is amazing. Anderson and I were given a tour today. That ship is a technological marvel. It's a joint turian/human project sanctioned by the Alliance. Quite a groundbreaking political achievement that I doubted the brass was capable of. It's good to be proven wrong on that point. The ship flies like something I've never seen before; it's a beauty of engineering. One day it will be mine.

We take our maiden voyage in about a month.


Joker is cynical, crass, jaded, bordering on insubordinate and admittedly funny. He's a damn good pilot; best I've ever flown with. I like him.

Kaidan is silent and brooding. Handsome. Steady under fire. Decent biotic; better with a rifle, though. There's interest that sparks his eyes when he looks at me. I'm not sure what to do with it.

Pressly is an ass. But, I think that's upbringing and less actual malice.

Jenkins is itchy to see battle. Dangerous attitude to carry when one is a marine.

Dr. Chakwas is impressive. Her knowledge of medicine pertaining to human and alien physiology is remarkable. She is commanding in her demeanor but gentle in her approach. She reminds me of my mom.


Eden Prime. That's the destination for the first voyage of the Normandy. A Spectre is joining us. Joker seems to think the whole thing is a lot more than a simple drop and go mission. I'm inclined to agree.


Nihlus is dead.

I'm a Spectre.

I'm Captain of the Normandy.

I've added a Chief, a quarian, a turian and a krogan to my crew.

I'm racing against time to stop Saren…and some sort of invasion, I think. The Prothean beacon wasn't too clear on details (except for death and destruction).

The world has gone to hell.


Wrex is crazy, impulsive and dangerous. He's also smart, strong and capable. We couldn't be better matched.

Ashley worries me. She's a more than capable soldier, but she seems to be at odds with the aliens on board the ship. She waxes poetic about the state of the galaxy and life and everything really. It's refreshing to find more than a jarhead aboard, but her views are bordering on racist…her and Pressly need to stay away from each other. God, she's soft and hard all at once. I don't know what to do about her.

Tali is sweet. I can't help but want to protect her from everyone and everything in this universe. Though, I think Tali is more than capable of taking care of herself. She certainly outsmarted Saren and the Shadow Broker. Adams thinks she's pretty amazing. I'm sure her technical expertise will be invaluable.

Garrus is tough. He's got a huge chip on his shoulder. Feels the constraints of laws and regulations more tightly than most. He's idealistic but with no solid moral compass to mitigate and balance justice with mercy. But, I can't help but feel like he could be a great friend.


We are heading to Therum in search of an asari. The daughter of Matriarch Benezia, I believe. We need to know what she knows; and whether she's aligned to Saren like her mother.

I'm so tired. It feels like I haven't stopped for a second since getting assigned this post.


Doctor Liara T'Soni is quite honestly nothing like I imagined. She's shy, awkward, socially uncomfortable, and ultimately nothing like any asari I've met before. But she's also amazingly smart, unequivocally adorable, and breathtakingly gorgeous…much like many asari I've met before. But even in the common attributes of her species she stands separate. I can't put my finger on it; but, she has this aura of innocence. It's unbelievably attractive in its subtleness. I find her fascinating.

She finds me fascinating, too. Unfortunately, not in the same way or for the same reason. She wants to study me under a microscope. She's fascinated with my connection to the Protheans. Her interest is purely academic. I don't think I've ever been more disappointed to be found so interesting for a completely unrelated reason than I would like.

Dr. T'Soni. I don't know exactly what to do about her. But, I want to figure her out.

A sad smile tugged at Liara's lips. She vividly recalled those first awkward interactions between herself and the Commander.


Matriarch Benezia is dead.

Liara didn't cry. I'm almost certain she hasn't cried. I don't know how to offer comfort when she so blatantly doesn't want it. How exactly do I apologize for killing her mom?

How do I express how much I care? How do I tell her I want to wrap her in my arms and let her cry for a woman who tried to kill her but who I know she loves anyway? How do I say I care so much it hurts? How do I show her I want to erase the deep sadness etched in her eyes?

I want to erase all the bad memories of today. I want to hold onto her until she can smile a smile that reaches her eyes. I want to make it all better.

And I'm not wholly sure why…I…I think…I love her.


Tears sprang to the asari's eyes, but she was unsure if they were happy or sad. She figured it was probably both. Her mother's death still hurt. No matter what she had told Shepard; Benezia's death had left a hole in her heart. She reread the entry, fingers tracing the word love. She refused to let the tears fall.


It's my birthday…I killed Ashley.

Liara traced her fingers over the wrinkled paper, trying to figure out why it was not smooth like the rest of the pages. Tears, the scientist realized. Shepard had cried over this entry. She had imprinted the evidence of her grief onto the page as surely as if she would have put pen to paper and spelled it out in words.


It's finally over! And, Anderson is seated on the Council. I hope that swings things our way for a little while. I get the sinking feeling that the Council is going to shut down any Reaper rumors in favor of keeping some sort of semblance of safety. They're infuriating in their stubbornness. They have me fighting geth when I should have a fleet at my disposal searching out ways to stop the Reapers from returning from dark space.

But, at least, I have my crew. And, most importantly, I have Liara. It's odd that she has become the center of my universe so quickly. It's terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure. She completes me…and I hope I do the same for her.


I want everything with Liara. Marriage and kids and happily-ever-after. Everything.

But, I'm not entirely sure how to bring that topic up. Or even how to ask. Research is definitely needed on how to propose to an asari…

Is it too soon though? She did say she was young for an asari…

I guess we need to talk…I hope she wants what I want.


I read the last entry I wrote after everything went down at the Citadel. After the Council sent us to fight geth and tried to ignore the Reapers. I haven't been brave enough to pick this up and put my thoughts in words. Two years. It seems like a lifetime. I am trying to reconcile the passage of time with my awareness of it. It doesn't feel like two years. To me it feels like just a few months ago my crew, my friends, my family, my love were all on the Normandy fighting the geth and following any leads on possible Reaper activity.

Two years: an infinity and an instant. The dichotomy leaves me astounded. I would feel numb but for all the hurt seeping through me, the betrayal. Kaidan called me a traitor. He practically spat in my face. Two years dead and all I get is animosity from him. I wouldn't have thought it possible from the quiet, taciturn man if I hadn't experienced it firsthand.

And Liara…it hurts everywhere to think about her. I'm staring at her picture sitting on my desk. I'm alone writing, staring at a lifeless photo, wishing I was drinking. I could have anyone on this ship up here with me. Giving me what little comfort physical intimacy brings before facing certain death. But here I am, chained by these feelings to a woman who can't be bothered to leave her post because in two years whatever she felt for me has withered and died along with her innocence. She wants vengeance for Feron; and I seethe with jealousy. It burns in my veins with the pain and acrid taste of disappointment. What was he to her? God, how long did she mourn me before moving on? I am such a fool.

These aren't good thoughts to have before a suicide mission.

I'll live. I'll live and convince Liara that I deserve a second chance. I don't think I can survive if I think otherwise.

A shuddering sigh escaped the asari. The words pierced her heart. She knew that's what Shepard had felt. They had talked about it; she had seen bits and pieces of it in the human's mind when they melded. But, reading it in the rawness of when Shepard felt it made it all the more real. She closed her eyes and swallowed against the lump lodged in her throat. Steeling herself, she opened her eyes and continued reading.


Who knew ousting the old Shadow Broker, rescuing Feron, and raising her to galactic-intel- broker status would be all it took to get Liara back? I feel whole again. I can't help but feel that way…Liara is back in my life. Not at my side, but for now just knowing she loves me as much as I love her is enough. She cried for me. I don't think I've ever seen her cry; I never want to see her cry again. It tore me up inside.

We did talk about marriage, kids, and the future. After we take care of the Reapers, I am marrying Liara. In the meantime, she insists on staying connected to the Shadow Broker network in order to help me with the Reapers. And, she's too good at it not to welcome it.

Hackett needs me for something urgent, but he won't give me any details until he gets me on a secure channel.


The weight of 300,000 souls is a heavy burden to bear. I sacrificed them for the lives of trillions, but the guilt is tearing at my heart.

Life had seemed to offer a momentary respite. My crew and I had defeated the Collectors. The Shadow Broker was dealt with. Liara was back. I had been happy.

But the fate of the galaxy weighs heavily on my shoulders: the Reapers are coming.


I left Anderson on Earth. I hope he survives until I can make it back. Leaving was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.


In spite of everything, I couldn't be happier.

Liara looked at the date of the last two entries. More than two years apart. Her fingers traced the dates in an attempt to figure out the great discrepancy in time. It slowly hit her. She went back through the dates quickly, noting that whenever she was together with the human the entries would disappear (with few exceptions). That is why she had never seen the journal before; Shepard had rarely used it when they were together. The human had always confided in the asari. The Commander had always used her as a sounding board, as a confidant. The last entry being a rare exception (which she quickly turned back to), which was days before their attack of Cronos station, Shepard never wrote her thoughts down when she had Liara to talk to.

The asari noticed the page opposite the last entry was half folded in a manner to hold something inside the expertly folded flap. Delicately unfolding the page she stared dumbfounded as the overhead lights glinted off a circular piece of metal. She picked up the cool band of metal and carefully inspected it, her heart beating wildly in her chest for some strange reason. She twirled the band noticing it seemed to be made of platinum inlaid with what appeared to be diamonds along the center. Placing it in her palm, she stared at the ring. Against her palm the contrast between her blue skin and the shimmery silver color of the ring (reflecting any light that touched it) looked good. It made the ring more beautiful in its simple elegance.

Inexplicably tears stung Liara's eyes. Swallowing against her painfully constricted throat, blue eyes noticed something on the inside of the ring. Breathing roughly through her nose she brought the ring closer to her face to inspect the inscription. The words were simple, but they resounded through her being.

Love never dies

Exhaling loudly in the quiet room, realization hit Liara. With trembling fingers, she took the ring from her palm and slipped it onto her left ring finger. It was made for me, the asari thought as she looked down at her hand. The ring fit her perfectly.

Liara closed the leather bound pages and clutched them to her chest. She buried her face in the pillows that still smelled of Shepard. And, she let go of the tight hold she had over her emotions. She released the chocking heartache and loosed the aching loneliness. Her body shook as soul deep sobs wracked her body, and she finally cried.

She felt her very soul pour out of her as tears fell unabated from tightly clenched eyes. Broken, keening sounds emanating from the deepest parts of her, she bodily trembled with the strength of the torn cries shaking her body as she clutched desperately to the journal. She mourned the loss of her best friend, her confidant, her lover, her bondmate. She mourned the loss of a future that would never be. She just mourned.

Liara felt utterly bereft. She would never get over Shepard. She could never let her go. Pillow stained with tears and the undetectable stain of grief and loss, Liara slipped into exhausted sleep with an old line of human poetry bouncing around in her head.

Love has gone and left me and the days are all alike.