"Hey Commander, we'll be docking with the Shadow Broker's station in about 15 minutes. Just F.Y.I."
"Thanks for the update Joker. Feel free not to tell me every five minutes."
"Just keeping you motivated. I know I'd've been ready and waiting by now if I was waiting for that big blue—" Leanna jabbed her finger on the mute button before Joker could say which attribute of Liara he found the most appealing.
"He's right, you know." Leanna turned toward the source of the voice, Kasumi, who was rummaging through the locker. "You really should get up there."
"Like this?" Leanna indicated her body, which was wearing underwear only.
Kasumi placed her hand on her chin, regarding Leanna like a painting. "Well, you'll certainly get her attention."
"Ha ha, very funny. Will you be serious for a minute and help me figure out what to wear?"
"I keep trying to, but you keep shooting down my suggestions."
"Well, maybe if you made better suggestions, I wouldn't have to shoot them down," Leanna retorted.
Kasumi threw up her hands in exasperation. "Well if I keep making bad suggestions, why are you even asking for my help?"
"Because you're the only one on this whole damn ship with any fashion sense!"
Kasumi place her hands on Leanna's shoulders to calm her down. "Shepard, if that's really what you think, then maybe you should let me decide."
"I…" Leanna sighed. "Ok. Just… just make it a good one, alright?"
Kasumi smiled. "I've know just the thing." She moved back to the locker and started searching for a dress. "So what's got you so stressed anyway?"
"Well, you see," Leanna flushed a bit, "it's my first date."
"Really, I thought you and Liara…"
"We never really had a date. Not unless you want to count the time we killed Saren, or the time we killed her mother."
"What's a date without a little bloodshed?" Kasumi quipped.
Leanna chuckled a bit. "And anyway, I didn't just mean it's my first date with her. It's my first date ever."
Kasumi stuck her head out. "Really! But I thought you'd…"
Leanna held up a hand. "Oh, don't get me wrong, I've been around. It's just that… the guys I was with didn't really care about me as a person, and the girl I got with… let's just say that sometimes, life doesn't give you all the time you think you need with a person."
"I'm… really sorry. I didn't know."
Leanna nodded. "That's why this has to go well. I don't know if I'll ever get another shot at it. Something could happen tomorrow and one or both of us could be dead. I don't want it to end and regret the only date I ever had."
Kasumi emerged from the locker holding a silky green dress. "Wear this, and I guarantee no regrets."
Leanna put it on as quickly as she could. "Well? Does it look alright?"
Kasumi smiled widely. "You better be careful. You wear that dress long enough and even I might sleep with you."
With one minute to spare, Leanna strode confidently out of the elevator and through the CIC. She attracted few glances from the crew, who by now were used to the Commander wearing a dress, though this particular one stood out a bit more than the others.
Leanna soon found herself at the airlock, at which time she heard Joker say, "Just in time Commander, we're finishing docking procedures now."
"Thank you Joker."
"If you really want to thank me, take pictures."
Leanna rolled her eyes. "Don't push your luck."
A voice came over the intercom. "This is Liara T'Soni, requesting permission to come aboard."
Joker tapped a comm. panel. "Permission granted. Welcome aboard Doctor."
The doors hissed open. Through them strolled what was perhaps the most beautiful sight Leanna had seen in the past two weeks: Liara. Leanna took a minute to bask in the sight before she realized the expression on her face.
"Is something wrong?"
Liara realized that her mouth had been hanging open a bit. "It is just… that dress."
"You hate it, don't you? I knew I shouldn't have worn this. I never should've listened to—"
Liara raised her hands to stop her. "No, it is not that. The dress is lovely. What I meant to say was that it looks new."
The smile returned to Leanna's face. "Oh! Yes, it's new. I got it a few days ago."
Liara nodded. "I know that you were wearing the black dress before due to a lack of options, but I never expected you to intentionally dress—"
"—like a girl?" Leanna tried to finish.
"I was going to say 'formally'."
Leanna smiled. "I wanted to look nice for you. It's our first date together after all."
Liara's cheeks turned violet. "I am flattered Shepard."
"Besides, don't think I've gone too soft. I can still fit a pistol in this dress."
Liara looked her up and down. "Where?"
Leanna smirked. "You don't want to know."
"I do," Joker called from the cockpit.
Leanna ignored him. "So, we've got about two hours before dinner. I figure I can give you a tour of the new ship and then maybe we can go to my cabin and talk."
"The talking sounds nice, but I have already seen the ship."
"Ah," Leanna smiled, "but you've only seen a few areas while you walked around it. You haven't gotten the grand tour from Commander herself."
Liara returned the smile. "No, I suppose I have not."
"Very well." Leanna extended the crook of her arm to Liara. "Come with me Doctor T'Soni. Let me escort you as we explore this mighty vessel."
Liara gave her a puzzled expression. Leanna lowered her arm, whispered something in her ear, then stepped back and extended it again.
"Uh… yes." She linked her arm with Leanna's "Come Miss Shepard, escort me through this… ship."
"We'll work on it," Leanna replied quietly as they headed into the CIC.
"Hey Commander," Joker called after. "Don't forget to set up a camera if you two decide to start reenacting Vaenia."
Leanna yelled back, "Don't be an ass, Joker."
"What is Vaenia?" Liara whispered.
"And here we are at our final stop, the Loft," the doors opened, "better known as my room." Leanna entered the room, Liara following close behind.
Liara gazed over the room. "This certainly is impressive."
"Isn't it?" Leanna spread out her arms. "It's almost twice the size of my quarters on the old Normandy, plus I get a fish tank, a skylight, and my own private bathroom."
Liara wandered over to the fish tank. "Your fish look well taken care of."
"Wish I could take credit for that," Leanna chuckled. "Kelly comes up here once a day to feed them. When I tried doing it myself, they all died."
"Yes, you and Miss Chambers seemed to be very close." She turned to face Leanna. "There is not… anything between you two is there?"
"Well, like half the women on this ship, she's madly in love with me." Leanna was only half joking with this. "But, I explained that I was a one woman girl and you were the one for me, so she backed off."
Liara laughed lightly. "I see you are still thinking of me as a woman."
"Am I wrong to?"
Liara shook her head. "My time spent among other races has shown that most binary gender species think of us this way. Still, as I told you back when we first met, the Asari do not have the concept of gender."
Leanna shrugged. "You know what they say: 'If it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and can give birth to live children, then it's a woman."
Liara took a moment to process the confusing sentence before she said, "I see your knack for metaphor has not changed."
"You should see my simile," Leanna grinned.
The two made their way from the office alcove to the couch and sat down. A bottle of red wine and two glasses were waiting for them on the table. Leanna poured the wine and handed a glass to Liara.
"So," Liara said after taking a sip, "how are you doing Shepard? And I mean how you are really doing, not just what you tell your crew to keep their morale up."
Leanna downed half the glass before speaking. "I'm just taking it day by day. Some days, I worry about what's going to happen when the reapers come and no one's prepared for them because no one will listen. Other days, I just wish they'd show up and get it over with."
"You don't really mean that."
Leanna shook her head. "Of course I don't. I just… I have no idea what I'm doing or where I'm going. I feel like I've been moving non-stop since I first found out about the Reapers, and this wait is killing me. I feel like I'm not closer to stopping the Reapers than I was when we defeated Sovereign."
"Still, you have done more than most could claim against them. You defeated the Collectors in their own territory and… oh. I'm sorry; I forgot that you lost someone on the mission."
"You mean Zaeed, the one-eyed wonder merc?" Leanna laughed. "To be honest with you, I'm glad he's gone."
Liara was a little shocked. "I am… surprised to hear you say that. I never thought that you would speak so callously about the death of a teammate."
Leanna took another sip of wine. "That's the thing though: he was never really part of the team. He was just here for the money, and he made damn sure to remind me of that. I mean, yeah, I did favors for the rest of my squad, but I gained the trust of everyone, so much so that they're all sticking around, even though we don't have a mission right now. Zaeed though, he would've left the ship the moment we got back."
Liara raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure about that?"
"Pretty sure, he said as much several times."
"You know Shepard, I know from experience that it can be difficult to open up to someone you've just met; to tell them you trust them, even though you have no reason to. Is it not possible that Zaeed trusted you but could not bring himself to tell you?"
A puzzled look spread across Leanna's face. "I don't… no. I don't think so. No, he couldn't have, could he?"
Liara shrugged. "I am unsure. I was simply telling you a possibility." She sipped her glass.
"Well, that was a downer." She drank the rest of her wine.
Liara set her glass down. "It is funny though. We finally get time alone together, and all we can talk about is others."
"Yep," Leanna replied, setting down her glass. "It's a real riot."
"So tell me—" Liara inched closer. "—what is it you want. If this all ends tomorrow, what happens to us?"
Leanna stretched her arms out on the sofa and leaned back. "You know, I was thinking of retiring, settling down, getting married, growing old, having a bunch of little blue children."
Liara gave her a playful shove. "You just say these things."
She stood, walking over to Leanna's second desk, upon which laid her old charred N7 helmet. Tears began to well up in her eyes. "Goddess Shepard, you were dead."
Leanna came up behind her, placing a hand on her shoulder. "I'm not anymore, and I have you to thank for it."
Liara turned. "We got lucky, but you burned that bridge already, and even if you had not, Cerberus no longer has the money to bring you back a second time." She moved next to the bed to look out the skylight at the stars. "When the Reapers finally come, you will be the first to dive into the fray."
Leanna followed her. "Liara?" she asked tentatively.
Liara turned to her, grasping her hands. "I spent two years without you, and I mourned for you every day. If we are going to be together, I need some sort of assurance that you will always come back."
"You want assurances? How's this?" Leanna freed her left hand and reached to the back of her ponytail. She undid the clasp that kept it tight and then removed the ring she had threaded her ponytail through for the last fifteen years. Without letting go of Liara's other hand, she got down on one knee.
"Shepard, what are you—"
"Liara T'Soni, will you marry me?"