Icy dread coursed through her veins as Miranda led Liara to Shepard’s room, cold tentacles wrapped around her stomach as the shadow of suspect clouded her judgment as she tried to decide if it was the right moment to confront Shepard’s bondmate or let it go and let her come forward on her own… but damn… if it was true, if she was right…
Usually Liara was much more composed in her mannerism, that made her extremely hard to read, but the stress and the fatigue of the past months, if not years, had torn the wall she had built around her feelings and what crossed her mind, everything showed on her face and her body language. The moment they had mentioned additional tests to make sure whatever happened when she had tried to meld with Shepard hadn’t done any damage other than the minor seizure that had lasted ten seconds tops, she had startled, her face twisted in a scared grimace and her hands had clenched the lower hem of the N7 sweatshirt she was wearing.
It could be just a figment of her imagination, the product of the poor reasoning of a brain that hadn’t had a moment of respite in years, and yet…
She had to be sure, she had to know if that crazy idea flurrying in her mind was true or just a figment of her imagination, if she was still a good a judge of character or if her over caffeinated and sleep deprived brain was fried too.
Catching even herself by surprise, she snatched Liara by her wrist and pulled her inside an empty room, shutting the door behind them and standing between the Asari and the door, making sure she couldn’t leave.
“How far along are you?!”
It wasn’t really a question, more a statement. Everything depended on Liara’s reaction.
And she froze in place, terror twisting her face and dulling the little light that still shone in her eyes as her fingers twitched again grasping the lower hem of Shepard’s sweatshirt, as if to protect something.
Or if Miranda was correct, someone .
“I… I don’t know what you mean,” Liara stammered, her voice unsteady and quivering.
“Listen, I don’t want to know the details,” said Miranda, bluntly. “I just want a straight answer. Did you refuse the tests Karin wanted to perform because you think you’re pregnant and you didn’t want her to know? Or me for the matter?” Liara swallowed and opened her mouth, but said nothing. “I won’t judge. It’s hardly my place to. But if I read you right and I’m not hallucinating, we’re talking about Shepard’s daughter, and that makes the timetable we set for her possible recovery a lot less loose than anticipated.”
“You think there’s a chance she can wake up?”
Miranda gave her a curt nod, trying to steel her face to appear as resolute as she could in front of a distraught bondmate. “I did bring her back from the dead once, didn’t I? I’m not letting Reapers take her like this. She fought too long and too hard to let them win like this. But if you’re pregnant, that gives us a lot less time to work on that. We need to speed things up quite a bit.”
“What do you mean?”
“That there’s no way in the galaxy or beyond it that I’ll let Shepard still be comatose when her daughter is born. I want her to at least sit up with enough strength in her arms to hold her. That’s what I mean!”
At that, Liara visibly relaxed, her shoulders sagged forward and covered her face with her hands. “I don’t know,” she murmured, again voice broken and on the verge of tears.
Miranda moved away from the door and closer to her. “You don’t know?”
She rubbed her face harshly with her palms and shook her head. “No, I mean… I think I am I… Shepard and I melded one last time before the final charge to Harbinger and I think I went too deep enough, enough to… you know… and I…” She drew a deep breath and started pacing up and down the storage room, fingers twisting and turning at the hem of the shirt once again, until she noticed she was doing it again and suddenly stopped, shoving them in the front pockets of the hoodie for good measure. “I fucked up.”
It was almost funny, watching the usually calm and collected Liara T’Soni, the Shadow Broker in person, flustered and on the verge of panic. If only the circumstances were happier…
“I had no idea your species could fuck up .”
“Neither did I, but also I’m barely out of teenage by my species' standards and Shepard was my first and only partner. If I actually got pregnant during that last meld, I didn’t do it on purpose. It was meant to be just a moment between ourselves before facing certain death, not a mating meld! Goddess, my mother would kill me if she was still alive.”
Miranda felt a pang of guilt in the middle of her chest, for forcing the young Asari’s hand like this. “Liara, calm down,” she said, making sure her voice was low and soft as she could. She even let go of the little effort she consciously made every time she spoke to tone down her accent to make sure she sounded as sincere as she wanted to appear. “I didn’t mean to cause you more distress than what you’re already experiencing, I’m really sorry, it was uncalled for. But you have to understand that you can’t keep something like this to yourself for much longer.”
“I have time before it’s going to be obvious,” she replied. “Asari pregnancies last fifteen Earth months, not just nine.”
“I’m aware of that,” quipped back Miranda. “But you need to take care of yourself. That was what I meant. Slow down, get some rest and start eating regularly. You have lost weight since last I saw you.”
With a sigh, Liara sat on a crate of meds and folded her legs to her chest, hugging her knees. “Miranda, I don’t know if I’m pregnant, what good would it do? With Shepard in that state, who cares how long I sleep or if I eat more? You don’t look like you’re following your own advice!”
“Well for starters I can’t get pregnant even if I want to and you’re very well aware of that!” It hurt so much to mention her planned infertility that it made her voice crack, but she needed to go beyond her own struggles and prove a point. “Also, there’s room for only one woman on a self destructive tangent in order to take care of Shepard, and that would be me!”
Liara looked up at her, still hiding half of her face behind her crossed arms. Her eyes were a mix of different emotions, but the one that stood out the most to Miranda was the confusion crushing her soul. A feeling she knew very, very well. “Shepard would kick our butts if she heard us now,” she said. “For different but incredibly similar reasons.”
“Yeah… she’d be royally pissed if she saw us bickering like this. But trust me Liara, she’d be very worried about you if she knew you could be pregnant, and she’d want you to get checked before you went to see her.”
“I know… we had talked about that, you know? For after the war. She seemed rather into the idea of having children, I don’t know if she was serious or if it was just a fantasy she was making up to keep her mind off the ongoing war, but she spoke about that often.”
Miranda felt a smile grow on her face. “I can totally imagine that.” She walked towards Liara and sat on the crate beside her. “She talked a lot about you, you know? While we were chasing the Collectors, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone happier than Shepard the day we walked into your office on Ilium, she was walking on the Moon, if you excuse the old Earth saying.”
“Yeah, she could barely hold her enthusiasm, I noticed…” she replied with a chuckle, lost in the memories for a moment. “She told me you didn’t really hit it off the right way, too.”
“Yes, we headbutted on a lot of topics, but nothing we couldn’t get over with a few late night conversations in the mess hall. How could she do what she did with so little sleep still baffles me to be honest. I’m a chronic insomniac and there are times I need to go to pharmacological means to sleep, but even I actually manage to rest more than three or four hours per night. How could she sleep so little and still be so deadly on the battlefield, I’ll never know.”
“Same. But no matter what, she always manages to make it work…” Liara took a deep breath. “You think I should get a blood work done?”
Miranda nodded, running her palm over the Asari’s shoulder. “If not for the possible pregnancy, for the seizure. It lasted just a few seconds, but it was scary. I’d be less worried if we knew whether that seizure caused anything that could be life threatening, or even just mildly bothersome.”
“I feel fine though…”
“I know,” said Miranda. “But it’s better to be safe than sorry. I don’t really want to see you as a patient of this facility. We have enough neurologically impaired soldiers to cure as we have now.”
There was a long pause that felt like it lasted a century, but it seemed like she had managed to convince Liara. “Alright, I’ll do it. At one condition though. Karin does the test, and if I’m really pregnant, no one says a word. It stays between you, me and her. Can you promise me no one but us will know, in case it turns out positive?”
Miranda nodded again. “I swear. No one will hear a word about it from me, but I urge you not to keep it a secret for too long. Tali may hold a grudge on you for not telling her right away.”
That tore a short but sincere smile from Liara. “If she hasn’t guessed on her own.”
“Ah well, she’s a good judge of character too, and she had you under her eye for longer than I have. Who knows…” Miranda drew a long breath and felt Liara leaning against her, looking for comfort she wasn’t really sure she could provide, but would try her best. “Mind if I ask you something a little personal?”
Liara chuckled. “You already figured out I could be pregnant, how more personal do you want to get?”
“I’m not an expert in Asari biology by any means, I just know the very basics, but don’t you have physiological symptoms that the meld actually worked?”
She nodded. “We do, but it’s more subtle than humans from what I understand. More experienced Asari know for sure from the start if it worked or not, it’s a matter of experience I guess, but most of the time after a couple of months one should start to experience a feeling of restlessness accompanied by random bouts of fatigue throughout the day, and I’ve had all of those for about a month now. But you know what also causes that?”
“Stress…” Miranda sighed. “But what do you think happened?” she asked then. “What do you feel?”
“That it worked.” There was little to no hesitation in her voice, despite the slight tremor that tinged her words. “I swear I had no intention to get pregnant, it just happened!”
“Hey, no one is going to be mad at you for that! Quite the contrary I believe. And I’m sorry I came at you so aggressively, it wasn’t my intention to scare you. But you have to understand that while we’re doing our best to put Shepard back together, there’s still a chance that we won’t be able to, and after what happened when you tried to meld, well… the odds aren’t in our favor.”
“I know,” Liara replied softly. “But you’re trying, and that’s what matters most. Whatever happens, we’ll make it work. We always do, after all.”
“We’re a little short on credits, but hey, at least we have medigel, that’s already a good start!” Miranda tried to put some levity in her voice, but she feared she had failed. Despite that, Liara laughed again, so she hadn’t failed that bad. “Come on now, let’s get that blood work done, Karin was worried about some kind of enzyme floating in your blood that could lead to neurological issues down the line.”
Needless to say, Karin was furious that Liara had failed to mention the possibility that she could have been pregnant all this time, and she gave her an earful of that righteous rage. Also, she loudly complained at her own ineptitude to catch the symptoms while she had her under her watch on the Normandy every single day for three months. In any case, she agreed to Liara’s terms of secrecy and then proceeded with drawing the blood sample to test.
It only took one arched eyebrow from the older, much experienced doctor to finally learn the truth.
The test came back positive.