Still Deck 3
It was the best she could do to choke down the passable meal Gardner had made. It tasted a bit more ass today though. She was going to have to pick up some more provisions from the Citadel, or some gloves, she wasn't sure which.
Tali had finished her breakfast, so Leanna was pretty much alone in the Mess hall. Gardner was cleaning the kitchen counter-tops with a dirty rag while a few crew members were quickly finishing their meals; first shift had started about 15 minutes ago.
She buttered her toast for the third time before deciding she wasn't hungry. She pushed the tray away from her and headed to the elevator. She'd be early, but she was sure Tali wouldn't mind.
"Deck 4," she said out loud as the elevator doors closed.
What the hell is going on today? What did Miranda mean by "the gender thing"? So Kelly's a girl. Why should I care about that? I mean…
"Commander Shepard, you have arrived at your destination."
"What? Oh, thanks EDI"
Leanna made her way to Engineering. As she approached Tali, she heard Ken and Gabby talking about Haggis. Her stomach lurched.
"Hey Tali," she called out.
"Oh," Tali jumped a bit. She cleared the screen she was looking at. "Shepard! I um… didn't expect you till later."
"My schedule cleared up faster than I thought, figured I should stop by before it filled up again."
"Right, that makes sense. Well… let's go to the engine room. It's private in there."
"Yeah, unless someone looks out one of the windows."
"Trust me; it's harder to do than you think."
"So, what was it you wanted to talk about?"
"Well," Leanna hesitated. She wasn't sure how to approach the issue. "There's this problem that… I need help with… in my bedroom."
"Crap, that came out all wrong. You see, the thing is… There's this camera… in my room. I need your help. To take it out!" she hastily added.
"Oh, sure, I can help you with that."
"Great, thanks Tali. I knew I could count on you." Shepard turned to leave.
"Shepard, wait." Leanna stopped and turned back to face her. "There was something else. Something I wanted to… to talk to you about.
Leanna walked back to where she'd previously been. "Oh, that's right. I must've spaced out. I forgot you had something too. What is it?"
"It's just…" Tali paused. "Well, it's about my future."
"Oh," Leanna was surprised, "your future? What about it?"
"Well, the thing is, I've been giving a lot of thought about where I want to spend my life. When I returned to the Migrant Fleet, I joined the crew of the Neema, but it never really felt like home. To be honest, I never really knew why until you asked me to come onboard at Haestrom. I realized that my place is here, on the Normandy," Tali paused to take a breath, "with you."
Leanna smiled a bit, "Tali, you know you'll always have a place on the Normandy."
"I know that." Tali paced a bit as she said the words. "But that's when I started thinking about what that meant. The thing is, this means I'd be spending a lot of time around Non-Quarians, which means I'd probably have to look outside my own race for… romantic opportunities."
"Did you have someone in mind?"
"Actually, yes. In fact I've had feelings for someone for a while now. Someone strong, but compassionate. Someone I could see myself spending the rest of my life with."
"Really, who is it?"
"Well," Tali replied, somewhat coyly. "It's you."
"Oh," Leanna was taken aback. "Me? You mean me? You have feelings for me?"
"I do. I've been trying to figure out the best way to articulate the words. I… I've been doing some research on how humans talk about these kinds of things, and I figured the best approach was just to be direct, but I was worried about how you might react so I sort of 'knocked around the tree' as you humans say, but then I figured I'd just out with it, and now I'm thinking that wasn't such a good idea… why are you laughing?"
Leanna was indeed laughing, "I'm sorry, I just couldn't help it." She composed herself, "It's just… first of all, it's 'beat around the bush'."
"Well, I mean I'm flattered, but…"
"There's a butt?"
"A big one."
"It's not my fault! That's just the way our bodies are structured!"
"What? No, not that! I meant 'but' as in there's a reason I have to say no."
"Keelah, I knew this was a bad idea! What was I thinking! I'll have to leave the ship now won't I? I'm such a bosh'tet! Why are you laughing again?"
"I'm sorry, sorry. It's just… you're so cute when you ramble like that." She took a minute to compose herself. "Don't worry; nobody's throwing you off the ship. The reason I have to say no... is because of Liara."
"Liara? But I thought you two were… I mean she didn't even come on the mission!"
"I know, but I owe it to her to see where our relationship goes. It's not like we broke up or anything. I just… I need to see if the woman I met on Illium is the same girl I rescued from that collapsing Prothean ruin."
"You mean, you think that might not have been Liara we met on Illium."
"No, I mean the person inside."
"You've lost me."
"Never mind, what I'm trying to say is, until Liara and I have a chance to sit down and talk about our relationship, I can't really have a relationship with anyone else."
"I… I understand. You should probably get going. I'm sure you have a lot to do. Talk… talk to you later Shepard."
"Talk to you later Tali." Shepard started walking out of the engine room. Just before she got to the doors, she turned back, "I just want you to know, it's not like I've never thought about it before."
As Shepard headed back to Engineering, she could swear she saw Tali smile.