Notes:

CIC - Combat Information Center

Grá mo Chroí - Love of my heart (Gaelic)

Gráim thú - I love you (Gaelic)

Hooley - Party or celebration (Gaelic)

Nara - literally "bearer"; one who shoulders another's burden, aids others in difficult times (Thessian)

Siame - "one who is all", a loved one cherished above all others (Thessian)


PART 3

SSV Normandy, Milky Way Galaxy (at large)

Gabby and Ken exited engineering through the port side access hatch. "Hang on half a sec, Gabby. I wanta get something from the port cargo compartment. Be right back." Gabby looked at him quizzically…he was acting odd, even for Kenneth. She nodded to him and then turned to the Lieutenant. "Go on up, Sir. We'll be right behind you."

"Sure you don't want me to hold the elevator for you, Ms Daniels?"

"You go ahead, Sir. No use waiting for us." Gabby smiled as she waved him towards deck three.

Greg nodded to Gabby, opened the door and disappeared inside. As Gabby turned back towards the observation windows, she noted the last shuttlecraft had been offloaded and parked. The door to the port side cargo compartment opened and a nervous looking Donnelly came towards her. She turned her attention towards him and asked, "Ready to go up?"

"Gabby, before we go up ta join the party, I have a present for ya. I've been wanting to give this to ya for a while now, but just never felt like it was the right time, ya know?"

Gabby looked at Ken with a half smile. "Kenneth, you don't need a special time to give me… a present, or… whatever. Come on, let's go up."

"Gabby, wait." Ken stopped right in front of her. "Ya know, I'm not sure you're aware of how much you mean ta me." Ken nervously placed his arms around her and pulled her gently to him. "I love you, Gabriella Daniels." Gabby started to interrupt; Ken kissed her full on the mouth.

Gabby struggled for a moment before giving in to the kiss. She had always initiated hugs and kisses before; she tried and couldn't remember the last time Ken had done anything like this. She broke the kiss so she could breathe and said, "Kenneth, what the hell? I don't know what to say. I…" she gave up and pressed her lips to his before he could move or talk.

It was Ken's turn to break the kiss. "Gabby. Look. I have to do this now, afore I lose me courage. I haven't had anythin' to drink, jus' so ya know…not even a wee dram. I'm stone sober, I swear." He pulled one arm loose so he could reach into a pocket. The case he pulled out was small, covered in white. He held it up between them, tilted the lid open to reveal the contents and said, "Gabby. Would you do me the honor of becoming me wife?"

Gabby couldn't help it…tears began running down her cheeks as she started crying. She could see from the expression on his face he thought he'd done something wrong. She quickly placed her palms on his cheeks and with her voice hitching, replied, "Ken…I…I would be honored…to marry you. I never thought…aw shit, kiss me again!"


The elevator door opened onto the deck three passageway. There were a few people lounging about at either end, where the doors to the crew lounges had been locked open. Ken looked at Gabby as he took her hand…a hand that now sported a diamond engagement ring on her third finger…and walked off the elevator and around to the starboard side bulkhead. He was headed to the makeshift bar being presided over by a rather grumpy looking Asari Matriarch, hoping that Gabby had been correct in her assessment.

Stopping in front of the Asari, he nervously asked, "Would it be possible fer me to get a wee dram of Caol Ila? It's a very fine…"

Matriarch Aethyta had heard all about these two Humans from Samantha Traynor. "I know what the hell it is. Who do you think brought it on board in the first place?" She reached down to the bottom shelf, brought up a bottle bearing what Ken felt must be liquid gold, poured a finger's worth in two small glasses, pushed them in front of him and said, "Knock yourself out… literally."

Ken picked up one glass and handed it to Gabby, then picked up his own glass. Nodding to Aethyta, he turned towards Gabby, clinked her glass with his and said, "To us!" then downed the entire drink in one swallow.

As his eyes watered and he gasped for breath, Aethyta refilled his glass, then poured one for herself. "Kid, you better learn to pace yourself. That shit will set you free!" With that, she clinked his glass, then Gabby's, said, "To both of you," and downed it with no more difficulty than if she'd just taken a drink of water, causing Ken to stare at her with admiration plain on his face. It was going to be an extremely interesting evening.


SSV Normandy, much later...

James Vega and Ashley Williams, having each downed several rather potent drinks, were sitting on the couch closest to the aft edge of the viewport in the port side crew lounge; they had decided they needed to eat something to offset the alcohol in their stomachs, so were snacking on some of the hors d'oeuvres set out for the purpose. James perked up when his friend Steve Cortez entered and went to the bar. "Hey! Esteban!" he shouted over the sounds of conversation carrying through the compartment. Waving a massive arm in the air, he added, "Come join us!"

Cortez ordered up his drink, then turned and waved it over his head at James and Ashley, pantomiming a 'you want one?' motion to the pair, to which James held up two fingers in a 'V'. Steve quickly grabbed two more drinks and made his way to the couches. "LC? Vega? Enjoying yourselves I see."

Vega took one of the glasses off Steve's hands and handed it to Ashley; he took the second glass, held it up in front of his friend as he looked admiringly at Ashley and said, "Que con muchas curvas, y me sin frenos, señorita"

Ashley looked at Vega, then at Cortez who was grinning like a bad little boy on the school playground. Returning her gaze to Vega, she retorted, "I'm not nearly drunk enough to understand what you just said, Lieutenant, but obviously Cortez doesn't need to be blasted to understand, so," turning her gaze back to Steve, "what exactly did he just say, Lieutenant?"

Steve shook his head, took a swig from his glass and whistled, "Damn! They got some really good stuff for this shindig! And I've already forgotten what Mr. Vega said, Commander… sorry. Booze has a way of screwing with my short-term memory. But hey!" He looked at the table sitting behind the enclosure. "That table has been neglected for way too long. What say we gather a few… victims, Mr. Vega? Play a few hands of take no prisoners poker?

Vega looked over his shoulder, then back to Cortez. "I think there just may be hope for you after all, Esteban." Heaving himself to his feet, he said, "Let's go find a few… players, shall we?" When Ash started to rise, Vega looked at her, smiled and said, "Stay right there, señorita. We'll need you as well."

Ashley smiled back and said, "Only because I need to take your money, Vega."


It wasn't long before a somewhat rowdy crowd of people were putting the table 'requisitioned' from the Shadow Broker's ship to good use. In addition to Vega, Cortez and Williams, Donnelly and Gabby were sitting side by side, accompanied by Greg Adams, who felt someone had to look out for the best pair of engineers in the Alliance Navy. Of no surprise to anyone, Joker had agreed to join in the fun, but no one wanted Edi to play. "Nothing personal, Edi," James had said. "You're a computer. There's a camera over this table," to which everyone else looked up, "so even if you can't count cards, which I really doubt, you'd be able to see everyone's hands and place your bets accordingly."

Edi had agreed that no one would trust her, so chose to stay as a good luck charm for Jeff, and to make the occasional 'booze run' for everyone. The real surprise to everyone, particularly Joker and James, was the inclusion of Barla Von; the poor little Volus was so short, he had to stand in his chair so he could see everyone at the table.

Von zeroed in on one person in particular. "Kenneth Donnelly… 'sshhk'… I am led to believe it is you I should thank… 'sshhk'… for adapting a spare shuttlecraft to my…'sshhk'… rather unique requirements… 'sshhk'."

Ken looked at the Volus and smiled. "You are more than welcome. I know I would not wish to stay on your world in an environmental suit for any length of time. I am happy your stay with us will be comfortable."

Cortez picked up a deck of cards, looked around at everybody and cut the deck; Vega picked it up, expertly shuffled several times and said, "The game is poker, five-card draw, nothing wild." James dealt the cards, and the game began…


After a few hands had been played, it had become abundantly clear to the humans around the table that Barla Von was either very lucky (unlikely) or a very skilled player… he had won four of the first five games with ease. Thinking the cards may have been tampered with somehow, Vega opened a new pack of cards, shuffled them and set the deck on the table. Ashley cut the deck, and then passed it to Ken Donnelly. "Deal 'em, Engineer."

As Donnelly looked at Gabby, he shuffled the cards again and dealt each person a hand. Vega looked at Edi, who had been standing behind Joker. "Maybe we should have had her play after all! We certainly couldn't be losing our shirts any worse! Edi, would you mind getting another drink for myself and the Señorita?" Looking around, he asked, "Anyone else?"

Edi took note of the raised hands and left to procure the needed beverages. Before she returned, Shepard and Liara poked their heads in the small compartment. "The game must be going well, Li… no one's been called out for cheating, no gunshots… good clean game."

Raising her voice slightly, she asked, "Gabby? What's that on your finger?"

Gabby swiftly placed her left hand out of sight in her lap, only to have Shepard come stand behind her. "Ms Daniels, if I didn't know better, I would have sworn I saw you wearing a ring of some kind."

Gabby blushed and brought her hand back up, which Shepard gently grabbed to bring up over Gabby's head for a closer look. "Why Gabby, this appears to be an engagement ring. It's beautiful! So," she smirked, "who's the lucky fellow?" Knowing full well Ken Donnelly was the only man Gabby loved, Shepard looked at the young engineer sitting beside her and remarked, "Guess he finally realized what a great partner he already has, huh?" Shepard gave Gabby's hand a gentle squeeze as she placed her other hand on Donnelly's shoulder. "Congratulations to both of you." Looking at the players as Edi returned with a tray full of drinks, she said before leaving, "You should offer a toast to this pair, and wish them good fortune, although…" here she paused to look at the table's surface, where most of the chips were sitting in front of Barla Von, "…it would appear they'll need a loan from each of you to get a start in life."

James grabbed his glass, hoisted it up and said, "Ken and Gabby! Here's to a long life with no strife! Congratulations!" To which everyone agreed with a 'Hear! Hear!'


Shepard and Liara wandered their way to the other end of the room, where the numerous people sitting at the couches surrounding the bar were having the time of their lives. To see everyone here, together and actually enjoying life after the Reapers was something neither one had taken for granted. Shepard glanced at her mom; Hannah was in heaven. She had her best friend, Karin, sitting right beside her along with two Asari friends she had known for seventeen years; they had been through some tough times together and were practically considered family.

Seeing her daughter arrive, Hannah suddenly raised her glass. "A toast!" Everyone in the group stopped and looked at her except Garrus.

He suddenly sprang to his feet and tripped to the bar, "Wait! My glass is empty! I have nothing with which to... toast!" As an afterthought, he glanced back. "Dee? You good?"

Dee glanced at her half-full tumbler and held it up for Garrus to see. Garrus tilted his head at an angle and his mandibles twitched. "Why... do you have two glasses? Never mind. You certainly don't need a refill."

Samantha started to chuckle as Garrus turned back to Aethyta, "Fill 'er up, please, Matrar... Mati... Aethyta!"

"My pleasure, Vakarian!" Aethyta's growly laughter filled the bar as she poured his glass full to the brim with Turian brandy.

Garrus returned to his seat on the couch slowly, careful to not spill any of the precious liquid. "It's a good thing you don't have to get up for work tomorrow, Garrus." Shepard wore a huge grin on her face. "I can't wait to see you in the morning... I love starting my day with a good laugh!"

Garrus was about to retort when Hanna cleared her throat to regain everyone's attention. They all expected a toast to her daughter, so were surprised as she started speaking. "To the Asari! To Liara, for finding the damn plans we needed in the nick of time, to Arlyna and Niria, for giving Sam the basics she needed to develop into the biotic she has become, and to Aethyta..." her glance coasted to Garrus before she continued, "for making the most entertaining drinks in the house!"

As everyone burst out in laughter, Shepard shouted out, "Wait! Wait! You forgot Riana!" As everyone turned toward her expectantly, she smiled and lifted her glass again. "To Riana! Without whom... I would not be standing here today."

Not everyone knew the full story, but it was still a sobering thought, so the laughter quieted slightly and Liara held up her glass, "For which I will be eternally grateful. To Riana!"

"Hell yeah!" Aethyta, as always, fired the party right back up again with her guttural bellow. "Now, who else needs refills?"

As the chatter and laughter renewed, Traynor leaned over the bar and gave Riana a solid kiss in front of everyone. "And her bravery is one of the reasons I fell arse over tit for her!"

"Turned out, our training of Samantha was a very good investment on our part. We don't need to be thanked for that; we've certainly been repaid in full... with interest!" Arlyna smiled brightly and attempted unsuccessfully to stand. As she fell back to the couch, she half-missed the cushion, bounced and slid to the floor, leaning against Niria's legs.

With a very surprised expression on her face, Niria looked up and tried to spy Aethyta behind the bar. "Goddess! What exactly have you been putting in her glass?" She received no answer... at least not one she could hear above the laughter.


Garrus Vakarian had a very happy buzz going. Deciding he didn't need to get falling down drunk to enjoy this party, especially in the company of the lovely Desis Vyessan, he stood from the couch and reached down for her hand. "I need a bit of air. Care to go for a stroll?"

"Sounds lovely. You ought to be intimately familiar with this ship, Garrus. It must have been difficult to leave after so much time on board." Desis stopped speaking for a moment as they exited the lounge and moved towards the crew's mess area, amid calls of 'Yo Garrus' and 'Hey, Vakarian' from various crew members scattered about the large area. "You seem to have made a lot of Human friends."

Garrus sipped his brandy before answering. "These people are absolutely the best, Dee. It takes a lot of them to run this ship… hell, any ship, Human, Turian, Asari? Most of those on board the Normandy were here at the start of the war. No one… not a single person on board, ever gave me anything but respect, not just because I was the commander's friend… hell, I served as her XO and led the ground teams on occasions when she came back too injured to go right back out; no, they gave me respect because that's the kind of people the commander… the captain, has working for her."

They were in the passageway leading to the main battery. "My private domain was right up here." He entered a code in the door lock; the hatch segments retracted and they strolled into the compartment housing the Thanix cannon. "Here it is. Turian design, on a Human ship that can trace its ancestry to a Turian design. We don't accomplish anything, Dee, by going it alone. I am so glad the First Contact War was resolved without a mass of casualties on both sides." He took another long pull from his glass, eyes focused somewhere off in the distance.

"You miss it, don't you?"

"Hhhmmmm?" What's that?"

Dee raised her hands waist high, palms up. "You miss this... all of this. Garrus, I know you aren't truly happy on the homeworld, and I can't blame you, not after seeing all this…" she spun around, hands still in the air, "…your friends, co-workers, this ship. The people on this ship are your family, Garrus. But your time here is at an end; you have an important part to play in the future of the Turian people now and I want that future to include me. I love you, Garrus!" She flung her arms around him and hugged him, to which he responded in kind.

Reluctantly releasing her, he said, "I love you as well, Desis Vyessan. Come on then, there's more ship to see. I don't think I've been barred from the CIC yet…"


Flight Lieutenant Jeff Moreau was the first casualty of Barla Von's uncanny card playing ability; the diminutive Volus had amassed a small fortune at the expense of everyone sitting around the table. The game was still going on, with James Vega and Steve Cortez each believing just one more hand would be all that was needed to change their luck.

Joker's card playing abilities had declined hand-in-hand with the amount of alcohol he had imbibed. He picked up the few remaining chips in front of him and rose to his feet, where he stood unsteadily as he looked to Edi. "One more drink and I'm done, Edi."

He slowly made his way to the bar at the other end of the compartment. Funny…don't remember this compartment being so long! Musta been stretched somehow during the refit. Took out a bulkhead, moved some equipment…

After less than a minute … 30 minutes - the room is huge! … of patiently plodding along, Joker was finally standing in front of Matriarch Aethyta. "Are you the person I need to see about this glass?" the snarky pilot asked.

Aethyta knew all about Flight Lieutenant Moreau and made up her mind she was not going to rip his spine out and beat him to death with it - might upset Liara. "Depends on what you actually need me to do with that glass, smart-ass."

"Well, it would be really nice if… hey! I jus' noticed something. You're blue." Joker said it as if he'd just made the most important observation ever. "Yer s'possta be green on Snt Patty's day, ain'tcha?"

Aethyta had heard everything now. Green? She thought for a moment and hatched a diabolical plan. "Lemme see that glass of yours, shit-for-brains! I have just the thing to fix it for you."

Joker looked at the glass in his hand as if he just realized it was there. "Here ya go."


Joker leaned heavily on the end of the bar as he finished the last bit of liquid in his glass. Whatever the Asari bartender had put in there had left him feeling as if his legs had disappeared in the clouds. He wanted to look down to see if they were actually still attached, but felt like his stomach would revolt if he did so. He decided to get one 'for the road' so he could crawl into his bed and sleep for eighteen hours. Banging the bottom of the glass on the bar, he hollered, "Barkeep!" except what came out sounded like 'Brkaep'

Aethyta looked at the scrawny Human partially lying on the bar, glanced around to make sure Shepard and Liara weren't in the lounge and pulled her secret weapon… Ryncol. She held the bottle up for Joker to see and said, "This what you want?"

"Hell yeah! Put more of the stuff in the… the thing… more stuff goes in!"

She had her out! Joker had told her to put more in the glass. "Your funeral, pal." Aethyta let out an evil chuckle as she filled the glass with pure Ryncol, added an ice cube and set it on the bar in front of Joker's nose. "Enjoy your crawl home!"

Joker put the glass to his mouth and took a swallow. Not bad. Bartender's okay, even if she is blue. Didn't like her laugh, though – sounded evil. Joker's thought gradually faded as his brain shut down, allowing his unconscious form to slowly slide off the bar onto the floor.

Edi noticed this and went to see what was wrong. Aethyta shrugged her shoulders. "Couldn't tell you what happened to him. Musta dozed off."

Edi gathered up Jeff's unconscious form and took him through the crew's mess to the Med bay, where she hoisted him up on a bed and hooked him to a monitor. He'd probably sleep it off okay, but she expected she'd be doing all his work for the next several days. She sent a report to Dr Chakwas' omni tool and left to rejoin the party.


As the party went on, Shepard and Liara made the rounds; they visited the T'Soni commandos, the majority of which had gathered in the starboard lounge. Shepard was pleased to note that while only six of the eight were there, the room was not going to waste. A number of the more intrepid Normandy enlisted crew were hanging out with them and everyone seemed to be having a great time. As Liara mingled and spoke with each of the commandos, Shepard walked over to Captain Tanni and smiled, "It really is good to see you again, Livos... it's been too damn long. Seems folks are having fun."

Livos smiled in return. "That we are, Shepard." She glanced around the room. "I was concerned at first, when the first couple of young soldiers walked in, fearing the typical stereotype of Asari was going to cause difficulties, but they have proven to be rather polite and well mannered... especially given they are very well on their way to being drunk."

"They've been on the Normandy long enough with Liara and Riana to understand that those stereotypes are not valid." Shepard laughed lightly, "Be sure to ask Riana about the first couple weeks after our stop with the fleet to pick up some support personnel at the start of the war." Shepard shook her head. "She ended up pinning more than one to a bulkhead when they were somewhat... reluctant... to take 'no' for an answer."

"Yes. Riana has matured very nicely as a First." A shadow fell over Livos' face. "If nothing else, the real Matriarch Benezia loved her extended family and had an eye for talent. She could not have picked a better pair for Liara than Riana and Judea."

Her eyes came up and met those of the Spectre squarely. "And she most certainly would have approved of you. Her biggest dream was that Liara would find herself matched with an equal; someone of firm spirit, an intellect to challenge her, and possessing a zest for life that would draw Liara out of her books and into the world and life beyond the walls of a library."

"She was easy to fall in love with." Shepard's eyes drifted to Liara and watched her laugh and chat, perfectly at ease with the group. "And somehow, I knew; the first moment our eyes met, I knew. She is truly the Grá mo Chroí... the love of my heart." She looked back to Livos. "And suddenly, I have a great desire to be back at her side."

"Of that I have no doubt. Your entire demeanor changes when you speak of her; your love for her is evident even to the dullest of wit." Livos let out a short laugh and then looked at the commander in query. "Shepard. After this grand tour, do you plan to stay with the Alliance and remain a Spectre?"

"I believe so, but Liara and I haven't really talked about it yet. Being promoted to Captain means they'll probably want to move me off the Normandy and give her to Ashley, and I don't know what the Council will expect of me, or if I'll be able to take Liara with me." Again, Shepard looked at her bondmate. "She'd most likely have to give up being the Broker and I won't ask that of her."

Her voice picked up an edge as she continued, "And the Council and the Alliance have to give me time off when this is done or I will resign. I am going to spend time on Thessia with Liara and we're going to figure out where our future is headed, be that with the Alliance, the Council... or not."

Livos eyes went wide. "Really? You would resign because they do not give you time off?"

Shepard looked at her and she had a glint to her eyes which Livos was glad was not directed at her. "Unequivocally, yes. Honestly, they made us take that week at the Citadel as the war was all coming to a head, the worst possible time for me to take leave and honestly believe I could truthfully relax." Shepard shook her head in disgust. "I haven't had a bona fide leave period of more than a couple of days since our two weeks after Sovereign, when we visited my mother and Thessia."

"Nara! Goddess! That was..." Livos paused to think and stared at her in astonishment. "...five years ago!"

"Well, three to me, if you don't count the two I was being rebuilt." Shepard shook her head, "But, yeah. Now you get my point." Shepard sighed, "The Alliance hasn't exactly been kind to me, or Liara by extension, and I'm not yet eligible for retirement. I've only served sixteen years, fourteen if you subtract the two, which I'm sure they'll do... and they would probably deduct my time with Cerberus as well."

Shepard gave a derisive snort. "Hell, they may not let me separate at all. "Citing 'needs of the Alliance' or some other bullshit. All I know is I have over sixty days of accrued leave time and I am going to take it."

She suddenly felt comforting arms slip around her waist from behind and Liara kissed her gently on the neck before placing her chin on Shepard's shoulder and whispering into her ear. "Are you alright, Siame? I sensed... much angst through the link. We are supposed to be enjoying ourselves."

Shepard closed her eyes and relaxed into Liara's loving embrace, absorbing the tranquility from her soothing touch. "Sorry, Blue. You're right. I let myself get a bit riled up."

Livos frowned. "Apologies. I pursued a line of inquiry that was not suitable for the festive occasion."

Shepard reached out and immediately clasped her shoulder in friendship. "Absolutely not. It was a harmless question. It was I who let my disgust with our current situation taint the answer... and for that, I am sorry."

Shepard let out a self deprecating laugh, "So, Livos. To answer your question. Yes, I think so, for the short term at least." She reached back and drew Liara up beside her. "After that? Who knows? But you will see us on Thessia for an extended vacation, one way or another."

Liara's eyes got bright, "Really?"

"Yes, Grá mo Chroí." Shepard turned and kissed her sweetly. "I have over sixty days of accrued vacation time and I plan to use it so that we may formalize our bond." Shepard grinned and touched their foreheads softly together, "Assuming you still want to do that."

"By the Goddess, Shepard! Really? You want to go through a formal bonding ceremony?" Her whole body suddenly tensed with a nervous energy and Liara leaned back so she could see and read Samantha's face when she gave her answer.

"Hey. I didn't go through that whole, formal, Asari promise ritual doohickey for nothing, ya know!" Shepard reveled in the absolute glee that danced through Liara's sparkling blue eyes.

"This woman plans ahead to make sure she takes the right steps to end up where she wants to be." Shepard was sure alcohol played a part in what happened next, because the Asari she knew would never have literally shrieked with delight, at an eardrum shattering pitch, and thrown herself into the captain's arms with such force that she was very glad a hysterically laughing Livos was behind her to keep them from both tumbling to the floor in a heap.

The shriek brought a number of people running and they all crowded into the room, wondering what had happened. After she helped Shepard stabilize her footing, Livos stepped back out of the way. Recognizing Liara's voice, however high and distorted it was, Riana frantically shoved her way through the mob to the front, readying her biotics. She saw a crying Liara, clutching desperately to Shepard and an angry scowl crossed her face, "Mistress! What happened?"

A growl came from the doorway, and Shepard didn't even need to see the face to know it was Aethyta. "I heard my girl screech... What the fuck happened?" Her fiery voice was promptly followed by her body also emerging from the crowd to stare at the couple in the center of a quickly widening circle.

"Dad!" Tears streaming down her face and trembling with excitement, Liara quickly turned and grabbed Shepard's hand on the arm that held the promise bracelet, lifting both of their arms out for display. "Samantha wants to formalize our bond!"

Riana's entire body relaxed and a wide smile replaced the glowing blue of biotics as the energy faded away to nothing. Aethyta stared at her like she had gone completely insane. "Well, I'll be a Pyjak's uncle. You sure about that Shepard? You even know what it entails?"

"No, Ma'am, I don't." Shepard pulled their arms back and she looped hers around Liara's waist and pulled her close. "And I don't care. Doesn't matter how hard it is; anything that makes Liara this happy is definitely worth doing."

"Oh, my." A third voice chipped in from the crowd as Hannah worked her way forward, tears running down her face as well. "My baby girl is gonna get married!"

At Hannah calling the Hero of Elysium, the Savior of the Citadel, the woman who led the victory against the Reapers... her 'baby girl,' the entire room erupted into joyous laughter, immediately followed by countless well wishes from everyone in the room. After a long while, all the additional people who had entered the room had said their piece and trickled back out again, leaving the happy couple and all their close friends. Liara sighed and leaned into Shepard, tucking her head down onto Shepard's shoulder and looking for strength. "Suddenly, I'm very tired, Sam."

Shepard laughed quietly, "I imagine so, after that display." Liara didn't really have much energy to put into any sort of remonstrance, so all she mustered was a soft poke in Shepard's side. Shepard gave her a tight hug and kissed her gently on the forehead. "Gráim thú, Liara." Knowing that was new to her, Shepard sent the meaning through their link. {I love you.}

"Come on." Shepard gave Liara a gentle nudge upright and took her hand as her glance shifted to her mother. "Mom, we're going to head to bed, but you know there's one last thing we have to do."

Hannah smiled and her eyes flashed with happy remembrance. "I've heard you speaking Gaelic tonight, you remember the words?"

Shepard smiled, "Yeah, but the only other one in the room to understand us would probably be Ken Donnelly, so I think we need to do the Anglicized version."

Hannah took Samantha's free hand and walked with them out to the Mess. Shepard patched into the ship-wide comms for a moment and shut down the music to many groans of protest. "Would everyone still awake please report to the Mess?"

Everyone on the Normandy amounted to roughly fifty souls, so there was plenty of room as they all filtered in. After Shepard left sufficient time for those who were still awake to gather, she gave Liara a quick kiss and dropped her hand. She then stepped forward with her mother. "A lot of you know this song from the Human New Year's celebrations, but not many realize it's also sung in the Isles at the close of the final céilí... uhm, dance... of the St Patrick's Day festival. While you all may not be done with your celebrations yet, and that's fine by me, I am. But before we take our leave, I am compelled by tradition," Shepard paused and looked pointedly at her mother, "to sing Auld Lang Syne. It's an older version, but feel free to sing it with whatever words you know it by... the music isn't any different."

Shepard cued her omnitool and as the tune started to play, Liara instantly realized where Shepard's singing voice came from; Hannah was a low soprano, which was a perfect harmony to Shepard's rich alto. It immediately became obvious to the entire group it was not the first time these two had sung this song together. Liara stepped up and slipped her arms around her lover's waist and looked up into her face with adoration. As broken as his Scottish brogue was, Ken Donnelly quickly joined in and he did so in his native tongue. Eventually, everyone who knew the words participated to some extent and as the last notes faded away, Shepard gave her mom a kiss on the cheek as a tear trickled down her own. Her voice was husky as she whispered, "Thanks, Mom. There were times I wasn't sure we'd ever get to sing together again."

Hannah returned her kiss with a tight hug. "You never should have doubted it Sam. We're tough. We're Shepards."

When they separated, Samantha cleared her voice and made one last announcement. "Alright! The music's about to come back on and I want everybody to have a good time. Don't worry about us... the loft is soundproofed!" As the music restarted, Shepard made a quick call to Edi. "If you would, please, Edi. When the last of the revelers pass out or crawl off to sleep, can you turn off the music and go to night lighting?"

"Certainly, Shepard. Enjoy your rest. And if I may say so, Captain, I believe your party was a brilliant success."

Shepard wrapped her arm around Liara and they began their walk to the elevator, saying their final goodbyes as they walked. They stepped in, arm-in-arm, and as the elevator doors shut, Saint Patrick's Day, 2188, came to a quiet close.


A/N: This was my first ever co-author attempt and a result of a challenge tossed to Desert Sunrise late-night on the 13th. It has been an intense weekend and Monday of many dozens of emails back and forth and late night Beta reading by both of us. DS wasn't sure about working with another author, but working back and forth has been a real blast, and trying it for the first time on a 'short' really helped... Hope you have enjoyed the fruits of our joint effort!