Friday, September 23, 2011

Episode #5 – Top Secret, Part 1

Kodiak Drop Shuttle, Sowilo System

"This is Normandy, you are clear to come aboard."

"Thanks Joker." Garrus activated the shuttle's autopilot. "Good to be back."

"You know," Tali started, "I had a really good time. I don't even care that we didn't get to eat at the restaurant."

"Yeah, sorry about that. If I'd known they were operating on Turian Standard time…"

"Really, it's OK. I had fun just spending time with you."

Garrus moved his mandibles in a close attempt at a smile.

The Normandy's hanger doors opened before them as the shuttle drifted in. Tali had to restrain herself from opening the shuttle's doors before it stopped when she saw who was waiting for them.


Garrus placed a hand on her shoulder. "I don't think she can hear you. The comm's not on right now."

As soon as the shuttle landed, Tali burst out and ran straight for Shepard. Garrus watched her with a dejected look on his face.

"Shepard!" Tali ran up to her and preformed her quarian salute. "Here to make a full report Captain!"

"Report?" Shepard had a blank look on her face.

"You know, the report you wanted me to give you… you said '24 hours. Then I want you back here to tell me everything.'"

"Oh," Shepard replied distractedly. "Yeah, I forgot about that."

"You… forgot? Then why were you here waiting for us."

"I was just down here checking on some things."

"Oh. Well, that's OK. I can still tell you everything that happened."

"Actually," she interrupted, "can it wait till later? I've got some business to attend to."

"A mission?" Garrus had finally gotten over to the two.

"Not exactly. Just something I have to take care of. By myself."

"Oh," Tali's voice was as blank as Shepard's face. "I guess we'll just… get out of your way."

Shepard nodded absently.

Tali and Garrus boarded the Elevator.

"Is Liara still here?" Tali asked, keeping the doors from closing. "I was hoping I could talk to her. Last time we talked some… unpleasant words were said."

"No," Shepard replied. "She had to get back to her Shadow Broker business."

"Oh. I guess I'll… talk to you later Shepard."

"You too."

The Loft, One Hour Previously:

"You cannot just send me away!"

"Liara, you have to."

Liara ran her hands along her fringe in frustration. "This is exactly the kind of situation I was talking about!"

"What are you talking about?"

"You said if there's the possibility you might die on a mission, you would take me along." Liara lowered an accusing finger in Shepard's face. "You promised me!"

"I said if I was going to die. I'd take you if I was going to die."

"You said if there is a chance you may die. Is there?"

"Liara, there's a chance I may die taking a shower in the morning. Do you want me to take me with you every time I take a shower?"

"I… what?"

Leanna walked over to Liara and grabbed her hands. "Liara, if I could, I'd take you with me in a heartbeat. Hell, I'd have taken you through the Omega-4 Relay if you would've let me."

"I know. I'm sorry I didn't come with you, but I…"

"It's alright. You don't need to apologize, just to listen. I have to do this alone. I mean I literally have to do this and it literally has to be done alone."

"Can you not at least tell me where you are going?"

Leanna shook her head. "I can't tell you that, and you have to promise not to use your connections to find out."

Liara pulled back, frustration creeping in again. "Why not?"

"I'm just trying to protect you. The less you know about this, the better it is for you."

"I'm not the same naïve asari you rescued two years ago. I don't need you to protect me anymore."

Leanna threw her hands up. "The whole galaxy needs me to protect them! And I know you're not naïve like you used to be, but I still need you to not know about this. At least, not until after it happens."

"But why? What is so goddess dammed important that you cannot tell me?"

"It's just… I might have to do things. Things I won't be proud of. If you find out what they are, you might try to stop me. Or worse, you might not. I don't… I don't want you to have to make that choice."

"I… I see."

"Look, I will make a promise to you, right here and now." She grabbed Liara's hands again. "I don't care what I have to do, but I swear on the lives of our future blue babies that I will make it back to you in one piece. Can you trust me to do that?"

"I… I think I can."


Silently, Liara headed for the door of the Loft.


Thane Krios sat pensively in the life support room. The door behind him opened.

"Is that you Siha?"

"No, it's me Garrus."

Thane turned slightly. "Yes, of course. Come in."

Garrus walked in the door and around to the other side of the table.

"Please," Thane gestured to the chair, "have a seat."

Garrus sat. "Sorry to burst in on you like this."

"Not at all. I find myself happy for company, this close to the end of my life."

"You're uh… looking well. Better than the last time I saw you anyway."

"Thank you. Doctor Chakwas has me on a new treatment. It's not slowing the progression of the Kepral's Syndrome, but it is lessening the symptoms."

"I'm… sorry."

"Don't be. I've reached a point in my life where I can truly say I have no regrets."

"I wish I could say the same."

Thane steepled his fingers. "Am I correct in assuming this is what you wanted to talk about?"

"Yeah." Garrus rubbed his head. "This past day has just been… confusing."

"Didn't you and Tali'Zorah have a date together?"

"Yeah. And no too."

"I'm not sure I follow."

"Well, we went out together for 24 hours, I'm not sure it was actually a date though."

"What happened?"

"Well, I wanted to take her out to this nice restaurant that serves food specifically for Turians and Quarians. Well, technically just Turians, but Quarians can eat the food just fine. Anyway, we got to the restaurant and it was closed. Apparently they operate on Turian Standard time, which is what all the Turian ships operate on too. Unfortunately, that meant we showed up about an hour after closing time and the restaurant is only open for dinner. If we went back when they opened, we'd miss the scheduled pick-up.

"Now, my first idea was to call the ship and ask for an extension, but Tali said she didn't want to bother Shepard in the middle of her date. Instead, we wound up renting a hotel room on Illium, raiding the mini-bar, ordering room service, and watching some of the vids they had to rent. When it was over, we came back to the ship."

Thane nodded. "It sounds like you had an enjoyable evening."

"I thought it was too, and I even thought she enjoyed herself. The thing is, as soon as we got here, it was like she started completely ignoring me and fixated entirely on Shepard. I know she's had a thing for her in the past, but I thought she was over it. Shepard certainly seems to be."

"Someone like Shepard can be… difficult to move on from. If it's true that Shepard doesn't reciprocate those feeling, she should eventually be able to move on."

Garrus rubbed the uninjured side of his face. "Maybe you're right. Still, that wasn't the worst of what happened."

"What was the worst?"

"You remember what I said about that restaurant? About how they operated on Turian Standard time? Well I was talking to someone, I think it might've been the manager, and he said: 'If you were a real Turian you would have known that.' Like suddenly it's my fault they're closed!"

"It can be difficult to have your pride challenged like that."

"How do you deal with it, Thane?"

Thane gave him a confused look. "Deal with what?"

"Deal with being the only one of your kind on a ship filled with aliens?"

"I try to remember the reason I am out here. I am doing more good now than I would among my own people."

Garrus sighed. "Maybe we were, back when we were busy stopping the Collectors. Now what are we doing? We're just sitting around, waiting for something to happen."

Thane raised one of his brow ridges. "Are you considering leaving the ship?"

Garrus shook his head. "I don't know. I've been thinking about it. My Mother's sick. She's getting treatment but I don't know if it's enough to save her. I shouldn't be letting my brother shoulder that whole burden alone, but I don't know what else to do. If I stay here I feel like I'm abandoning my family, but if I leave, I'll feel like I'm abandoning Shepard."

Thane thought for a minute. "Perhaps the problem is that you haven't talked to Shepard about this. You're worried about abandoning her, but you've never stopped to ask if she would feel abandoned."

"I know, you're right. It's just, I can never seem to find the right time. Every time she asks if I want to talk, I just make up something about 'calibrations'. Anyway, I'm still not even sure if I want to leave. I'm just entertaining the possibility."

"Even so, it is best for you to discuss such a possibility with Shepard. She may be able to provide you with insight you wouldn't have otherwise."

"You're right." Garrus stood and headed for the door. "Thanks for the talk Thane."

"You're welcome. Come back any time."

Tali'Zorah, lost in thought, barely realized where she was until she very nearly bumped into Joker's chair.

"Whoa, watch it there Tali. Don't wanna break something on me."

"Sorry Joker. I've just… got a lot on my mind."

"Looks like it." Joker swiveled his chair around to face her. "So, what brings you up to the cockpit?"

"I'm just… a little concerned about Shepard. Has she seemed… odd at all to you?"

"I'll be honest; I haven't even seen her since she met Liara at the airlock last night."

"You mean she didn't even see Liara off?"

"No, but I don't really think the Commander's ever seen anyone off the ship, least not what I've seen."

"Did Liara mention anything as she was leaving?"

"Not really. She was pretty quiet the whole time. Not that that's new for me. Don't think I really made a good first impression with her."

Tali chuckled slightly. "What did you expect? She gets saved from a collapsing mine and the first thing you do is crack a joke about it. She probably thinks you can't take anything seriously."

"She's probably right."

A hiss sounded from behind Tali. She turned to see Shepard striding quickly to the cockpit. Kelly left her post to follow.

"Shepard," Tali called as soon as she was in range. "I've been looking for you. I need to talk to you about…"

"Can it wait? I need to talk to Joker about something." She turned to face Kelly who had just managed to catch up. "Privately."

Tali and Kelly made their way back into the CIC.

"What do you think…" Kelly began before Tali hushed her.

Tali used her omni-tool to increase the sensitivity of her suit's external microphones until she could clearly hear the conversation.

"…setting in a new course. When we get there, I want you and the Normandy to wait by the gate. I'll be taking the Kodiak out alone."

"Don't suppose there's any chance of you telling me what this is about," Joker replied.

"Not this time. I need you to do what I say, and do everything in your power to keep the people on this ship safe, even if it means leaving me behind."

"Come on Shepard, you know we can't leave you behind."

"Joker!" Shepard replied sternly. "I need you to protect the lives on this ship. That's your job here. Just stay by the relay and don't leave unless I call for you. Got it?"


"Got it?" Shepard repeated, firmer this time.

"Aye Commander."

Shepard walked briskly out of the cockpit and past Tali and Kelly.

"Shepard?" Tali called after her.

"Later Tali." Shepard entered the elevator. The doors closed behind her.

Tali and Kelly walked back into the cockpit where Joker was still turned around, facing them.

"Ok, yeah. I can see what you mean about acting weird."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Flashback – Innocence Lost

Author's Note: Normally, I'd have a brand new short story for you here. When I wrote the short story "Innocence Lost", it was essentially the story that should go here, but I really wanted to upload it when I finished it. Now I was stuck without an appropriate story to place here. On the other hand, I know there are those who haven't read the short story for whatever reason. In that case I present "Innocence Lost" in the official storyline. It has been edited slightly for content and continuity.

I've only cried three times in my life. Each time was when I lost something important to me. The first was when I lost my parents. The third was when I lost my lover. This is the story of how I lost my innocence.

November 22, 2170

Leanna Shepard, age 16, sat in the corner of a small room, clutching her legs. The tears felt like they would never stop flowing.

It had been just over seven months since she'd left the orphanage to join the Reds, and in that time, she done many things she wasn't proud of to keep herself alive, but this day, she had done the worst thing yet. She'd done something she swore she would never do, and she hated herself for it.

She could almost hear the Nuns that raised her scolding her. They would say she committed a mortal sin. That was indeed what it felt like, and all done for a warm bed and a meal.

The tears still flowed, but she knew she could not continue in what she was wearing. She began to peel the blood-stained clothes off of her body.

The blood… She hadn't been prepared for the blood. She had seen blood before it was true, but never like this. She recalled her horror when she first saw it. She wanted to forget the whole thing.

She tossed the clothes in a pile on the floor, then rummaged through her rucksack, in which she carried everything she owned. She pulled out a clean set of clothes and placed them on the cot that had been hastily shoved in the room. She knew she couldn't put it on while she was still dirty, but she didn't want to leave the solitude of her small room.

Besides, she could hear that he was still out there.

Leanna grabbed a stained pillow off the ground and sat on the cot. She rested the pillow on her lap and placed her head upon it. Even as she drifted to sleep, she continued to cry.

No more than a few hours later, she awoke to a loud noise. She straightened herself up to listen. Could it be the man was coming back?

After a few minutes, she heard snoring. The man was sleeping. She breathed a sigh of relief.

She swung her legs off the bed and stood up. She dug through her rucksack again, this time pulling out a towel. She wrapped it around herself and stepped out into the hall.

The hallway was dark, but she dared not turn on a light. Though he was snoring, she knew the man was not a deep sleeper. That was the one rule she had been given, do not wake him up.

A minute later, her eyes had grown accustomed enough to the darkness to begin walking. She kept her footsteps quiet by not raising her feet more than half an inch off the ground. It was a trick she had learned trying to sneak around in what she was increasingly considering to be better days at the orphanage.

Moments later, she felt her foot contact with a wall. She had reached the end of the hallway. To her left was the bathroom; to her right was the room where the man stepped. Carefully, trying not to make a sound, she opened the bathroom door and crossed the threshold. The door closed behind her as she fumbled for the light switch.

The florescent light flickered on with a hum. The bathroom was old. The toilet was missing its seat, the tile was chipped and yellowed, and the mirror above the sink was cracked. The tub had an unsightly brown ring around it and the walls that surrounded it were covered in mildew.

She turned on the faucet and, after five minutes of waiting, discovered that there wasn't any hot water. She was desperate enough though. She scraped the mold off the bar of soap and stepped into the icy cold shower.

The cold water felt surprisingly good. She rubbed the bar of soap on her skin. It didn't amount to anything approaching a lather but she felt cleaner just the same. As she moved the soap down her body, she discovered that she was peeing. She'd been too numb from pain to even notice. She figured it was alright though, seeing as how she had no intention of squatting over the seatless toilet.

Without warning, she remembered the screaming. It had happened during the event. She remembered the screaming coming out of his mouth and hers. The tears that had almost stopped swelled up again as she nearly collapsed in the shower. Only through sheer force of will did she manage not to hit her head on the rim.

She stayed hunched over, holding her knees as the water cascaded on her naked back. She wondered if she could go back. Would she be welcome back? Would the nuns accept her, even after all that she'd done? After what she'd done last night?

She rose, unsure of what to do next but no longer able to endure the cold of the water. After drying off the best she could, she wrapped the towel around herself and stepped back into the hallway.


The door shut behind her much louder than it had earlier. She stood in horror, listening for any sound that the man had heard her. All seemed quiet. She began to make her way to the small room, stepping as lightly as she could.


A floorboard shifted under her foot. Again she froze, listening for the slightest sound that she'd been heard.


Dread crept over her. He had heard her.

"Izzat you Le-Le? Wudd I say 'bout wakin me?"

Leanna panicked. She knew what he'd do if she woke him, and she did not want to go through with that. She ran as fast as she could to the small room and shut the door behind her. She barricaded the cot against the door and leaned against it, clutching the pillow.

"Please don't let him come for me," she whispered. "Please don't let him come for me, Please don't let him come for me."

She opened her eyes. Morning had come and she hadn't moved from her spot. She listened intently. All was quiet. The man must have already left.

Slowly, she stood up and began to pull the clothes off the cot. She tossed the damp towel onto the heap of clothes in the corner and dressed herself. She then moved the cot away from the door and stepped back into the hallway.

She looked back down the hallway to the end. Both the bathroom and bedroom door were wide open. She was sure the man had left now. Deliberately, she stepped the other direction, towards the kitchen of the small apartment.

It wasn't much of a kitchen. It was a few counter tops with half a refrigerator built into one of them. The stove consisted of three burners arranged so close together you'd never be able to fit more than a single pan, and the stove was only about twelve inches wide and a bit over half as deep.

A note sat on the counter next to a small piece of plastic. She pocketed the plastic before reading the note.

No food. Here's a 20 credit chit, buy it yourself. Come back anytime, long as you're willing to pay up like yesterday.


P.S. Happy Thanksgiving

She ran back into the small room, crumpling the note and tossing it on the pile. It was one thing to take food and shelter for what she'd done, but money? It made her feel dirty. She tried to cry again, but tears wouldn't come. It seemed she was all out.

She searched through her rucksack for something, anything that could make her feel better. She pulled out three things, a pearl-handled switchblade, a red lighter, and a silver ring.

She stared at the ring. It had belonged to her mother; that much she remembered. It was the last thing she had of her mothers, and she had let it sit at the bottom of a sack! How could she be so thoughtless!

She clenched her fist around the ring, grabbed the blade and headed to the bathroom. The mirror, though cracked, was clean enough to see through properly. She threaded her hair through the ring into a ponytail. It held her hair in place surprisingly well. She then brought the blade up to her hair and cut it. The fine edge of the blade made a clean cut.

She pocketed the blade and walked back to the kitchen. There was an unlabeled bottle on the counter that she knew to be filled with alcohol.

She brought it back to the small room and stood in front of the pile. She opened the bottle and began pouring the strong-smelling alcohol over it. As she did so, she made an oath to herself.

"I, Leanna Shepard, promise to never give up and never give in. Though the world tries to break me, I will not break. I promise never to cry again. If I feel I need to cry, I will remember last night, and that I already cried for this. I will find my way out of this hell somehow."

With the bottle emptied, she picked up the lighter, flicked the switch, and lit the pile. The flames rose in an instant.

She grabbed her rucksack and went to the front door of the apartment. She carved something on it then left the scene behind her.

Later that day, Brent Paine returned to his small apartment. The small room where he'd let Leanna sleep had burned for nearly half an hour before the automated fire suppressors kicked in, but it was more or less intact.

Brent scratched his head as he walked back into his main room. Then he saw the door. Carved into it were Leanna's parting words to him.

I'm Not Your Whore!

Leanna sat bolt upright in her bed. She was dripping with sweat. She felt a hand on her shoulder.

"It is alright Leanna. You are not there anymore."

She turned to the blue face next to her. "You… you saw that?"

Liara nodded.

"I'm sorry. I didn't want you to have to live through that… like I did."

Liara shook her head. "You have nothing to apologize for. I love every part of you, both the good and the bad. This is just part of what makes you who you are: the woman I love."

Leanna smiled. "You always know just what to say."

Leanna slept peacefully for the rest of the night.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Date Night, Part 5

Deck 3, Mess Hall

"How much do you want to bet they'll be late?"

Jacob Taylor turned to the woman who'd just spoke. "Never known the Commander to be late for anything. In fact, she's almost always early."

"Maybe," Kasumi retorted, "but you've only seen Shepard when she was single. Two people together, they lose all track of time."

Jacob folded his arms and cast a glance at her. "Speaking from experience?"

Kasumi gave him a look of faux-innocence. "Why Mister Taylor, what ever could you mean?"

Jacob shook his head. "Like I said though, no chance Shepard's gonna be late."

Kasumi raised an eyebrow. "This certainty you have, care to place a wager on it? Say, 50 credits?"

"Make it 100 and you've got a deal."

"D—" Kasumi heard a hiss coming from the nearby elevator. "On second thought, I think I'll keep my money."

Shepard rounded the corner only moments later, escorting a rather reluctant looking Liara.

"Hey guys," Shepard said with a rather large smile, "hope we're not too late."

Jacob smirked. "Actually, you're a few minutes early."

Kasumi gave him a sideways glance. "Don't remind me."

Shepard smiled. "I'm guessing there's a story there?"

"Not really," Kasumi replied evasively.

Shepard raised an eyebrow. "You two sure about that?"

Jacob shook his head. "Nothing that interesting Commander."

"I've told you before Jacob," she laughed, "call me Shepard."

"I'll keep that in mind Commander."

"Anyway, I don't think you've all been properly introduced." Shepard turned to face Liara. "Liara, this is Jacob Taylor and Kasumi Goto. Kasumi, Jacob, this is Liara T'Soni –" she paused, "— my Fiancée."

Liara smiled shyly. "It is nice to meet you."

Kasumi and Jacob just stood there, unspeaking.

After a moment, Shepard waved her hands to get their attention. "Guys," she asked, "Everything alright?"

"You're– you're engaged?" Kasumi managed to blurt out.

Shepard smirked. "You're that surprised?"

"It's just a little unexpected is all."

"Can we talk about this over food?" Jacob chimed in.

Kasumi smacked him lightly on the arm.

"What?" Jacob asked, annoyed. "I'm hungry."

Shepard chuckled. "It's OK. Let's sit down to dinner and I'll tell you guys all about it."

"So basically, the deal is: next time I go racing into the jaws of death, I take her with me. Then she said yes!"

Kasumi smiled brightly. "Congratulations."

Jacob raised his glass. "To Commander Shepard and Dr. T'Soni: a love not even death could separate."

"Thank you Jacob," Liara said. "That was very beautiful."

"So," Kasumi started, "Have you decided when you're going to have the wedding?"

Leanna set down her glass and swallowed. "Nothing firm yet, though I suppose we'd want to wait until this business with the Reapers is over."

Liara nodded. "Yes. I do not think we would have enough time to plan a wedding, much less have it while we are dealing with the Reapers."

"Well, I'm sure you two must at least have some sort of idea."

"Well," Shepard looked down a bit, "there was one thing…"

Kasumi raised her eyebrow inquisitively, "Tell."

"Well, I was hoping I could get Councilor Anderson to officiate."

"I take it you're not doing a traditional Asari Bonding Ceremony then?"


"An Asari Bonding Ceremonies is typically officiated by an Asari Matriarch," Liara explained. "It is alright though. I have no desire for a Bonding Ceremony. I want to have a wedding like you showed me."

Jacob cocked his head slightly. "You showed her a wedding?"

"Um, Liara, could we not…"

Liara didn't seem to hear. "Not exactly showed, but I've seen it in her mind."

"Seen what exactly?" Kasumi inquired.

Leanna brought her hand up to her eyes. "Oh god."

"Well, Leanna has had a dream wedding in mind since she was little."

Kasumi turned her gaze toward Shepard. "Is this true?"

Leanna nodded. "I'm sorry to say."

Jacob smiled. "So, I guess the Commander was a girl once."

Shepard glared at her. "Call me that one more time and I shove you out the airlock."

"Just playing Commander," Jacob chuckled.

Kasumi gestured to Liara, "I was just noticing the ring."

"What about it?" Leanna asked, thankful for the change of topic.

"It's just not what I've traditionally seen in engagement rings."

"Stolen a lot of engagement rings, have you?"

"Hey, say what you want, but there's something to be said for the traditional diamond engagement ring."

"If you must know," Leanna grabbed Liara's hand, "it was my mother's. My father gave it to her when he proposed."

"So what does the design mean?" Jacob chimed in.

"It's an Irish design called a Claddagh ring. My father was very connected to his Irish roots. You see," she pointed to the ring, "the Heart in the center represents Love, the Hands holding it represent Friendship, and the Crown at the top represents Loyalty. According to my Mother, it's been in my family for generations. At least, that's what my Father told her."

Kasumi looked at the ring closely. "And you've kept it with you all this time?"

"For the most part. I lost it for a short time, you know, when I died, but I managed to find it when I went to the crash site."

"Well it's in very good condition, having survived re-entry like that."

"It should've been. It was protected by the same thing that protected this." She tapped the side of her head.

Jacob gave a questioning glance. "You mean it was in your helmet?"

"That's right. I used to use it to keep my hair in that ponytail. I'm guessing Miranda didn't know that when they put me back together. She just saw from pictures that I kept my hair up and figured I'd want to keep it that way."

Liara took Shepard's hand. "Not many are aware of Leanna's sentimental side, but she does have one."

Shepard nodded. "I've lost a lot of people over the years — people I care about — but I keep their memory alive in my own way."

The four sat in silence for a moment before Shepard broke it. "Damn. Here we were talking about happy things like the wedding and now I've gone and depressed everyone."

"It is not your fault Shepard. Perhaps it is time we were done for the evening."

Kasumi reached her hand out. "You guys can't go yet. We haven't even had desert."

"Maybe they're in the mood for a different kind of desert," Jacob smirked. He then grunted as Kasumi elbowed him in the ribs. "What?"

"You can be such an ass sometimes."

"Maybe, but I'm your ass."

Kasumi shook her head then turned to Liara. "Well we've heard all about what you too are doing and we know plenty about Shepard already, so tell us about you. What's it like being the Shadow Broker?"

It was another hour before they managed to pull themselves away. Soon though, they found themselves back in the Loft.

"Wow, Kasumi sure can talk, can't she," Leanna said as she flopped down on the bed.

Liara sat down gently on the other side. "I like her. Perhaps we should invite her to be a part of the Wedding party?"

Leanna chuckled. "Liara, if we invited all the people I wanted to be a part of the Wedding party, we wouldn't have any guests."

"I believe there are plenty who would come; at least, plenty who would come to see you."

Leanna sat up on her elbows. "What do you mean?"

"It is just that… I know that I have made very few friends over the years. Even now, I am struggling to figure out whom I would have stand by me at our wedding. You though, you have so many friends that you are struggling to keep the number low."

"Liara, I'm sorry. I had no idea…"

"It is alright. I… I have always been fairly anti-social. Perhaps, as you once said, it was part of my rebelling against my mother. It took your constant visits to get me to come out of my shell. Still, I can count the number of friends I have on one hand."

Leanna grabbed her hand. "Look, the Wedding won't be for a while. You have plenty of time to go out and make new friends."

"I suppose that it true."

"And if it comes down to it, you can borrow some of my friends." Leanna smiled.

Liara returned the smile and the two embraced.

"So," Leanna started, "what do you say we do something fun?"

"Such as?"

"We could put on a bad vid and cuddle up together?"

"By which you mean you'll try to find 'Azure' again? You know, if you really want to find it, I could just guide you to it."

"Yeah, but where's the fun in that?"

End of Episode #4