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rocketfic | inevitability

Title: Inevitability by Rocketchick
Rating: 15+ Pairing: fem!Shepard/Liara
Notes: A tag for Mass Effect 2, after "Lair of the Shadow Broker."

In retrospect, Liara would have been more surprised if Jane Shepard didn't have nightmares.

Since the Shadow Broker's demise, they had more or less regular dates in the atmosphere of Hagalaz. Jane was so relieved to have reestablished their relationship that she didn't even mind her crew's collective amusement when she ordered them back to the obscure world for another "intelligence exchange."

After a while the two women formed new habits, new rituals of work and intimacy akin to those they had on the original Normandy. Jane would arrive on a shuttle, sift through the latest reports Liara had compiled, chat with Feron, and sit by the window to watch the storms raging outside while Liara tidied up her remaining tasks. Then they would retire to Jane's quarters and spend long hours talking, connecting in simpler ways before the inevitable Joining.

After exhausting each other and dropping off to sleep, invariably Jane would shudder awake to escape the subconscious torment of graphic, terrifying dreams. Sometimes she cried out. Sometimes she called Liara's name.

She would slip out of bed, disappear into the bathroom, have a glass of that brandy Doctor Chakwas gave her, and slip back into bed, all while Liara did her the courtesy of pretending she didn't notice.

Eventually Liara had had enough of this particular ritual. She sat up and waited, meeting Jane's exhausted eyes as the commander stepped back down into the Loft's living area. Jane sighed, then dropped into the chair next to the bed and took a long, slow sip of her drink, focusing on the feeling of warmth it carried down her throat.

"Perhaps you should consider speaking to Yeoman Chambers," Liara murmured.

Jane exhaled a dark chuckle. "I did. This is an improvement." Her eyes glittered at Liara in the darkened quarters. "Sorry for waking you."

Liara immediately reached out, beckoning Jane back to the warmth under the covers. "I'm sorry you've had to face this alone for so long."

Jane shrugged, not quite ready to accept her bondmate's invitation. She set the glass down on the desk next to her, then ran her fingertips across the battered surface of her recovered N7 helmet. "You had other things on your mind," she said.

"No, I didn't," Liara countered. When Jane looked down, she tried another approach. "What are the dreams about?"

"Ah, take your pick," Jane replied, sardonic. "The Reapers, the Collectors, the attack on the Citadel, Prothean genocide, colonist abduction."

"The deaths of your crew," Liara interjected, cutting to the far more personal horrors. "The destruction of the Normandy."

"Losing you," the commander agreed. She pressed her hands to her eyes, fighting off the sting of tears. "You probably see this stuff every time we Join."

Liara smiled. "My attention is usually focused elsewhere," she said.

That teased an answering smile from Jane, and when Liara reached out once more the commander gladly accepted the summons back to bed. They ended up curled together with Liara propped against the pillows and Jane tucked against her shoulder, seeking uncharacteristic comfort.

For a moment Jane merely enjoyed the quiet, happy security of Liara's embrace, then decided it was a good time to start hacking at the unspoken bits of anguish they'd been dragging around for so long. "I've noticed Joker gets all quiet whenever we come here," she murmured, and felt Liara's whole body go rigid against her. "He hardly cracks any dirty jokes at all." Finally, Jane leaned away just far enough to look her lover in the eye. "So what happened between you two?"

It was one of those things that happened while she was dead, one of those things that made her crew give each other knowing looks and stop talking. She was tired of the hushed references, the conversations that stalled when they headed toward the two year gap in her existence.

"Tell me," Jane pleaded.

"He thinks I blame him for your death," Liara replied. Her voice was stark in the cabin's stillness.

Jane sucked in a breath. "Why?"

The asari tipped her head up toward the skylight, watching the distant stars shimmer through the ship's mass effect field. The distraught rage she'd felt that day seemed absolutely irreconcilable with the warm contentment she had in Jane Shepard's bed, but she could still recall the look of gutted, impotent loss on Joker's face when his rescue pod opened on the cargo deck of some Alliance vessel, revealing the pilot to be alone and gravely injured.

The attack and subsequent escape had shattered twenty different bones in his body. Only the lack of gravity in the pod had kept his organs from being pulped by his own mangled skeleton.

His suffering barely registered in Liara's mind. Shepard had stayed behind for him. He had escaped, but Shepard was gone.

... Jane was gone.

Liara couldn't even really comprehend her own devastation and fury in that moment. She just stood there and shook as assorted medics swarmed around the pilot, while her biotics flared with a charge that could have splattered him across the deck.

At some point, Ashley Williams approached and grabbed her by the arm, holding on so tightly that it hurt. That point of contact, that acute moment of pain shared with her crewmate was enough to pull Liara back from the brink, and she sagged against Williams' silent support while the medics shuffled Joker off to surgery.

"It was a bad day," Liara replied, in a faintly speculative tone. She felt Jane's bemused exhalation puff across her skin, and managed a tiny smile. "And though I might have reacted rashly in grief, I do not blame him. I suspect I merely remind him that he blames himself."

"But it wasn't his fault," Jane said. "The Collectors were coming after me, and they didn't care who else was in the way. If I hadn't been spaced, more people might have gotten hurt."

"And I might never have gotten you back. I know." She did not mention the long hours she'd spent imagining Jane's body tumbling through the dark vacuum, like so much discarded space debris.

With a sad look, Jane reached up to brush her knuckles across Liara's jaw. "I'm surprised you don't have a few nightmares of your own."

Liara shut her eyes. "I did," she whispered. "For almost two years."

Jane felt like she'd been sucker punched. The whole knot of loss and guilt between them was still so raw, and despite their tentative reunions, it never seemed to get any better. She still wanted to apologize for getting herself killed, which only annoyed her. The fact that she'd already vaporized the ones responsible only annoyed her more; she had no one left to blame.

She'd tensed, ready to bolt, when she felt Liara's hands on her face, holding her still. Then Liara's lips were on hers, kissing her with almost brutal intensity. It was more of a duel than an embrace, and Jane pushed back with her own frustration, anger, and love.

Eventually they parted, panting at each other. When Jane dared to look, she could swear the pain she always saw in Liara's eyes had dimmed a little.

"I miss you," Jane said, driven by an impulse that tore the admission from her mouth. "You may have gotten me back, but it's taking me a lot longer to get you back."

"I know," Liara replied. "It is... not easy to explain. I had convinced myself you were gone forever."

Jane frowned in confusion. "After all the trouble you went through to find me and give me to Cerberus?" she asked.

"I did not doubt Cerberus could rebuild a body. But a person?" Liara shook her head a bit. "It was too much to hope for. I had to mourn you and try to move on. I couldn't keep thinking that you would walk into my office and kiss me and be who you were before."

Jane's lips twitched at the tiny joke, since that was pretty much exactly what had happened. "Am I, though?" she asked, giving voice to the anxiety she'd borne since waking up to Miranda's voice on Lazarus Station. "Am I who I was before?"

Liara took a moment to consider the question, and tilted her head to better study the dark eyes and pinkish skin so different from her own. "You used to have a scar, right here," she said, while she touched the spot on Jane's cheekbone with the pad of her thumb. "You used to have callouses on your hands from years of weapons drills."

At that, Jane did finally smile a bit, comforted by the warmth as Liara slid closer.

"You used to smile more easily," Liara whispered. "You used to be so dependent on the Alliance for structure and guidance. You used to fool me into thinking heroism and integrity were not such great burdens to carry."

She sighed and traced the muscles suddenly bunched in her bondmate's clenched jaw, deciding to ignore the faint reddish glow of cybernetic implants visible deep within Jane's eyes. "You are not the woman you were before," Liara concluded. "But you are still you."

"Is that enough?" Jane asked in a rough voice.

"More than enough," Liara promised. She leaned in for a far more gentle kiss, then merely sat with Jane as the tension between them dissipated in wisps of shared breath.

For the first time, Jane was grateful for the terrors that jolted her awake every night, knowing they'd granted her this moment of healing. "And you're still the woman I love," she said, letting that particular declaration slip for the very first time, more than two years late.

Liara went very still. Instead of answering, she turned to cast a speculative gaze at the Loft. "Is there room in the Normandy's AI Core for a new set of independent processor nodes?" she asked.

Jane blinked at the apparent non-sequitur. "Probably. Why?"

"And could you repurpose the ship's quantum entanglement array for a dedicated channel?"

"Of course."

"And would you object to Feron joining your crew?"

At that, Jane broke into a slow smile. "No, I wouldn't," she replied.

"Then I formally request permission to transfer operations to your ship, Commander."

Her heart was hammering in her chest, but Jane tried to restrain the swell of hope. "You're sure you want to do that?" she asked. "Liara, I can't promise..."

"You already have promised that you'd keep coming back," Liara said pointedly. "But Hagalaz is rather out of your way. I simply propose to make your promise more efficient to keep."

Jane smirked. "Well, I suppose 'efficiency' is important."

"Indeed," Liara replied, with an answering smile. After a beat her expression turned wistful, almost worried. She lifted a gentle hand to her lover's cheek. "I cannot stop the nightmares, Jane, but I will help you fight them."

Jane turned her head to press a kiss to Liara's palm. "I could use the help," she admitted. She took a deep breath to shake off the pall of the galaxy's looming threats, instead focusing on the realization that come morning, they would not have to part ways as usual. She couldn't even help the grin that split her face as she gave Liara a shy, happy look.

Liara shook her head, and with a faint laugh, pulled Jane closer for another kiss, which quickly led to explorations of other "efficient" ways to pass the early morning hours.

In retrospect, Liara would have been more surprised if she had somehow resisted loving Jane Shepard.

Ceding to inevitability, she gave herself over again and again.

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