It was a gentle love, a tactile love. It was all hands and lips and hearts in tandem. There was motion in our bodies and emotion in our discourse. We were a symphony of melody and melancholy. When you find peace in another's presence, there is no mistaken. — Lang Leav, The Universe of Us

GST – Galactic Standard Time, standardized time system utilized by inhabitants of Citadel Council Space
Ionúin álainn – Beautiful beloved (Gaelic)
Irin – Pronounced similar to the girl's name 'Erin' – Zaeed Massani's shortened form of 'Iringù-Eßizkur'
Liuyè dāo – literally, a willow leaf saber; military sidearm for cavalry and infantry during the Ming (1368–1644)
and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties. It weighs from 0.9 to 1.3 Kg, and is 91 to 99 Cm. long.
Mo cheann geallta – My promised one (Gaelic)
Nángùn – literally, a 'southern staff', polished, two-meter long white wax wooden staff
Qíngrén – [情人 – lover]


Having been cleared for light duty by Dr Chakwas, Master Gunnery Sergeant Sandra Patton checked in with Lieutenant Commander Steve Cortez as soon as she was back aboard the Normandy; he had enthusiastically welcomed her return, telling her how much he and the crew had missed her. Cortez assigned her to complete the inventory of all the light weapons—pistols, shotguns, assault rifles and such—she had begun right after her promotion at the beginning of the year. "I realize this project is probably pretty tame compared to your recent mission ashore, but I don't expect you'll have batarians trying to kill you … shouldn't have to outrun any explosions, either."

Patton chuckled at that. "I could certainly use a boring project or two after my recent adventures in Delta Ward, Sir. Updating our light weapons inventory and operational readiness will be all the excitement I need for the near future."

"Well, I'm sure I can uncover another really boring project or two by the time you've got this one completed, Master Guns," he replied with a smile bordering on a smirk. "Welcome back aboard."

After meeting with all the Marines assigned to the Normandy, Patton had spent several quiet afternoons in the armory area on the port side of the hanger bay, logging all their small arms by manufacturer, type and condition. As Cerberus had never done an inventory of the ship's weapons and there hadn't been enough Alliance personnel onboard to fill all the available positions during the Reaper war, Sandra was able to do a 'clean' inventory. Not surprisingly, there were many weapons on the ship of which only a single example existed; the lack of any standardized process for procuring guns during the fight to eliminate the Collectors, or afterwards in the war against the Reapers, meant the crew possessed a fair number of small arms that were not in compliance with Alliance regulations for ground team hardware. Every manufacturer in the galaxy was represented in the collection, including Batarian State Arms.

Ground teams routinely confiscated weapons from fallen enemies, the majority of which had belonged to Cerberus soldiers or members of the 'big three' merc gangs.

Since every soldier on the ship had been issued an N7 Valkyrie assault rifle upon enlistment, Cortez wanted the remainder of the ship's weapons standardized, not only to reduce maintenance time and expenses, but also to insure the training everyone received was centered on identical weaponry. The Marines seemed a bit more troubled by this development than the Navy crew members on board, but each of them respected Patton's position on the ship, particularly since her successful assignment on the Citadel.

Corporal Vic, assisting Patton in listing all the non-standard weaponry on board, made sure to inform the more vociferous protesters among the Marines that Patton would be retiring her personal Jörmangund Technology Helix-10 Rifle in favor of an Alliance manufactured Black Widow rifle, a weapon Sandee privately felt was inferior to her Helix-10 due to its greater weight. As she didn't own a pistol or shotgun, her choices would depend on her fighting style. Previous to her transfer and promotion, Patton had always been assigned to an overwatch position, serving as a squad's sniper; as she would now be expected to occasionally lead ground squads, she needed to carry a couple of additional weapons.

After researching what was available from Alliance manufacturers and allies, she chose to restrict heavy pistol inventory to the M-5 Phalanx or M-6 Carnifex, the shotgun inventory to either the N7 Crusader or N7 Piranha, and the assault rifle inventory to the Alliance approved and issued N7 Valkyrie. Patton's sniper background had her favoring the slower firing M-6 for a pistol, and while the fully-automatic Piranha appealed to her sense of having a close-range weapon that could literally be used as an alley-broom, she decided to stick with the N7 Crusader she had employed so successfully during her recent assault of the Blue Suns Headquarters in Delta.

In short order, Patton had replacement weapons in the hands of the Normandy's Marine contingent and had them running drills and firing live rounds in the nearby practice arena. Unable to join in the exercises due to her light-duty restriction, she contented herself with patrolling the sidelines, voicing encouragement over the comms loud enough to be understood over the nearly unceasing sounds of weapons fire.

During a break in the exercises, she walked into the nearby field office to answer a page on her omnitool. Pulling up the message, she was a bit surprised by the identity of the sender; Zaeed Massani wanted to speak with her … over dinner, at a nearby restaurant. Thinking back to the day she had literally thrown herself at him, only to have her attempt to tell him of her feelings rebuffed, Sandra's initial impulse was to simply say 'no fuckin' way!' However, she couldn't bring herself to do that to the man. At the time, she had told Zaeed that she wouldn't turn her back on him; she'd be damned if she was going to go back on her word now.

In spite of thinking herself crazy to do so, she sent an acknowledgement, saying she would meet him for dinner. The thought struck her that maybe, just maybe, there'd be private time afterwards for something a bit more … physical. Damn! I really wish I was completely healed and free of light-duty restrictions! Who knows what might happen after dinner … With a heavy sigh, she closed her omnitool and headed back out to the arena to observe the end of the live-fire exercises.


Traynor slowed the X3M as she brought the speeder closer to her destination; she had signaled Iringù-Eßizkur to prepare for her arrival by activating her homing beacon. As soon as the navi-computer in her speeder acquired the Repository's beacon signal, Sammy released the controls and sat back in her seat, somewhat to Buchanan's dismay. "Dammit Sammy, are you doing what I think …"

Traynor interrupted him, saying, "It'll be fine, Griff. Just relax. Iringù-Eßizkur has just enough space available for this aircar, and she has much more accurate control."

Buchanan shook his head slightly in disbelief as he watched the rear underside of the Destroyer draw steadily closer. He nearly lost it when he saw an entry that seemed no larger than 9 meters long by 6 wide – a space he considered a rather paltry-sized opening. "Doesn't seem large enough, Sammy – this thing is a good 8 meters long."

"Seven and a half, actually. Oh, and the canopy has been modified to slide forward enough so we can simply climb out once we're inside … be patient, Griff."

When the speeder's forward travel transitioned to vertical motion beneath the Repository, several low-intensity lights came on to illuminate their parking area. As they cleared the lower edge of the opening, a pair of panels rapidly swung closed beneath them; the computer cut the power and the X3M settled onto the now tightly-closed and latched door panels beneath it. Sammy toggled the canopy open and stepped out, motioning for Griff to follow her. "I kinda wish there was enough room in here to dock our old UT-47, but Irin's eezo core and the circuitry for her prime weapon take a helluva lot of space. She actually surprised me with the ability to safely store a speeder."

A round hatch irised open at the forward end of the compartment, prompting Sammy to encourage the reluctant man along. "Come on – I think you'll like her, Griff."

Buchanan muttered, "Wish you'd quit referring to this thing as a 'she'."

What other pronoun would you have Samantha use to refer to me?

Sammy looked at Griff and smirked as she led him up to the outer compartment. "Pay Griff no mind, Irin. I don't think he's ever been near a Repository, let alone inside one."

"Oh, I've been a lot closer to the damned things than I ever wanted to be … it's how I got injured at the end of the war." As the entrance hatch to the habitat and broker compartment segments irised open, the sounds of music—incredibly ancient in origin—resumed playing at a low volume. "My God, Traynor … What the hell is that? I've never heard anything like it!"

Sammy turned to look at Griff. "Not surprising. The majority of the civilization harvested by this Repository was gender female; they were an educated and cultured people, with enough leisure time to create …" she raised her hands over her head to indicate the sounds coming from the hidden speakers, "… this music. It's over 3500 centuries old." Before he could reply, she moved to the small console at the edge of the Broker's compartment and said, "Irin, this is Griffen Buchanan, the gentleman I told you about."

The music continued to play a cheerful melody as Iringù-Eßizkur replied, It is my pleasure to make your acquaintance, Buchanan-Griffen.

"It's joking, right? It's a machine, Traynor. How can it feel pleasure about … anything?"

Traynor's mouth fell open in shocked disapproval. "Griff, the Reapers were fully sentient, intelligent machines when they rolled in through Kite's Nest! Commander Shepard freed them from their imperative to indoctrinate organics; by so doing, she imbued all of them with a bit of her own DNA." She held two fingers up in a 'vee', pointing to her eyes. "Your eyes glow in the dark, as do mine – that's a result of their nanites being grafted onto our DNA. It's one reason our injuries seem to heal so much faster than before." Stepping further into the compartment, she added, "The only imperative Iringù-Eßizkur—hell, all of them—obeys now is to help organics … us! Xiùlán has a Destroyer named Asharru shadowing the Hong Kong everywhere she takes the ship. Others are repairing the relays and planetary infrastructure, even as we speak."

By now, Griff was holding up his hands in an attempt to get her to stop talking. "Okay! Okay, Sammy … I'm sorry … but you have to admit, all of this is really just a bit much." He looked around and added, "I think I need to sit down for a few."

Traynor motioned for him to follow her. "Let me show you the lounge, Griff."

Following on Sammy's heels, Buchanan's eyes widened in wonder at the comfortable looking chairs arranged along one bulkhead, all facing what appeared to be a large monitor on the opposite side. Sitting in the chair closest to the entrance, he relaxed slightly as he stared at the blank screen. He noticed the pair of chronometers beneath the display … the one installed at the left showing current GST, while the one mounted to the right presented a row of paired zeros with colons between each pair.

Sammy stood beside Griff; with a hand on his shoulder she explained, "The chronometer that's 'zeroed' is the 'time-to-destination' display. The monitor above displays real-time views of the space environment, whether ahead, behind, or both simultaneously. It can also serve as a tactical display." Pointing to the sides of the compartment, she added, "Personal spaces are on either side of this area – yours will be on the left, or port side; the dining area and kitchen are straight ahead through that hatch."

Griff turned his head to look up at her. "You seem pretty damned sure I'm going to join you … work for you …"

Sammy interrupted with, "… Not for me, Griff … you'd be working with me. There's a huge difference … and, I realize I'm asking a lot … asking you to have faith in me. But I honestly believe we can do this … rebuild the network of agents, find and broker valuable information … the need is greater now, more than ever." She went on to explain how she had helped Captain Cody and Zaeed Massani, with Sandra Patton's assistance, by flushing Solem Dal'Serah from hiding, thus enabling Zaeed to track him to Vido Santiago's hiding place, using information uncovered with the equipment installed inside Iringù-Eßizkur. "It's how I wound up in hospital along with Sandee, the NCO in charge of Normandy's Weapons Systems Division. We cleaned out a nest full of batarians …" she paused as Buchanan held up his hand.

"Sammy," he said in a resigned voice. "I get it. Captain Bill Cody is hell-bent on taking out the Blue Suns, and it would seem the Alliance in on board with that goal. That you were able to use …" he raised his hands to indicate Iringù-Eßizkur, "… the equipment inside this black metal monster to track down the head honchos of the Suns is all the proof I need that you're dead serious about doing this. Well, that … and the fact you resigned from the Alliance."

As he paused, Iringù-Eßizkur interrupted with, I am not a monster, Buchanan-Griffen.

Buchanan chuckled. "A bit sensitive for a machine, aren't you?"

Sammy chimed in, saying, "Irin, I don't think Griff will be convinced during such a short visit." Turning her attention to Buchanan, she said, "I don't need an answer right away, Griff, but I do need to know your intentions within the next few days." Her expression turned contemplative as she continued, "I'll understand if you don't wish to work with me again, especially since we would have to fend for ourselves without any military backup."

When Buchanan fell into a prolonged, brooding silence, Sammy walked through the hatchway to the dining/kitchen compartment, opened the cooler and grabbed a couple of beers. Moving back into the lounge, she handed one to Griff, who murmured his gratitude before opening and taking a long pull from the bottle.

After a few more silent moments and a couple more swallows of beer, he produced a loud belch before standing. "Sammy, I should probably be getting back to the Celestial Viper. I have to oversee the loading for our next delivery, soon as I get a good night's sleep."

Sammy took a couple of swallows from her own bottle before replying. "Griff, do me a favor … sleep here tonight. I'll wager you'll get a better night's sleep here, in this Repository, than on the Viper." Pointing to the left side of the compartment, she added, "Take a look. The bed is extra-long – a custom size, made for a turian. You're probably just as tall, even if you are a bit wider."

Buchanan grimaced, polished off his beer, then moved to inspect the sleeping area. After several minutes, he reappeared in the hatchway, his voice carrying a touch of awed surprise as he commented, "You weren't exaggerating about that bed, Sammy. Bathroom's a bit tight, but I'm used to that. So, we wouldn't have to bunk together, or share a bathroom … but … well, I'm still not sure." He paused for a moment before continuing. "I probably should get back to my ship for the evening, Sammy. I want to think about everything you've told me before I make a decision, and there's something about the way this thing is laid out … seems like the angles and surfaces are all out of kilter."

Traynor placed her hands on her hips and replied with a sigh of resignation, "Okay then. Come on … I'll give you a ride." Picking up the empty bottles, she dropped them into a recycling tube before walking back towards the rear section with Buchanan following. Once they were both in the speeder, Sammy activated the drive core and brought the craft to a hover as Iringù-Eßizkur opened the doors beneath them; she let the craft descend from the small compartment, then deftly spun it around and headed for the freight docks in Alpha Ward.


Traynor was slowly awakened by the soft, insistent chiming of her omnitool. She sat on the edge of the bed for a few moments as she stretched; with a small groan, she got up and padded to the bathroom, there to relieve herself and splash a bit of water on her face. Moving back to stand beside her bed, she pulled on a pair of knee length exercise shorts, socks and training shoes, traded her sleep shirt for a sports bra, then stretched several times by reaching both arms towards the overhead, followed by bending at the waist to wrap her hands around her ankles.

After stretching upwards once more, Sammy performed her deep breathing exercises before beginning the Tai Chi movements she had learned from Xiùlán when they were still in school together … seems so long ago, she thought as she cleared her mind to concentrate. Wincing as a couple of the positions she undertook brought a touch of discomfort from her still-healing injuries, she doggedly continued on, realizing she had to work through minor pain if she wanted to completely heal from her Blue Suns adventure.

After completing two reps of her seemingly choreographed movements, she added in her nángùn, twirling the wooden shaft in front of her and jabbing imaginary opponents with the ends; after two reps of her nine-step exercise, she set her staff aside in order to pull her Liuyè dāo from its wooden scabbard and add it to her workout. The whistling sound of its razor sharp blade parting the air around her punctuated her rapid arm movements and jumping pirouettes. After fifteen minutes of swinging the flexible blade, she sank to her knees to catch her breath for a few moments.

After returning her weapons—nángùn to a pair of hooks on the bulkhead and her Liuyè dāo to its ornate wooden scabbard—she shed her workout wear, took a shower and dressed, leaving her still-damp hair to finish drying on its own. She made breakfast for herself, then ate as she skimmed through the news feeds displayed on the table-top terminal. Seeing nothing noteworthy, she finished her meal, downed her tea and cleaned up.

Sammy left her apartment through the elevator, choosing to walk to the several shops she intended to visit in order to obtain the components for the upgraded terminals she needed to assemble. In only a few hours, she had everything she needed and was on her way back to the apartment when her omnitool chimed to indicate an incoming message. It was from Buchanan. Thinking, Shit! That was awfully damned quick, She hurried to reach the entrance to her building; once inside, she set her packages down and keyed on her omnitool. The message was short: Traynor. I'm at the freight docks and need a ride. Buchanan.

She smiled with satisfaction as she sent an acknowledgement; she had hoped to hear from Griff before the end of the day, and it wasn't even mid-morning. After taking the private lift to her apartment, she set her acquisitions on the table in the dining area before taking the circular staircase to the rooftop shelter where her speeder was parked.

It was only a twenty-minute flight to the freight docks in Bravo Ward; gazing down as she flew overhead, she tried but failed to find the Celestial Viper among the many Kowloon Class vessels in port. Circling back, she set her speeder's locator receiver to the specific frequency of Buchanan's omnitool; she had loaded and saved his ident-code years ago, so was actually surprised when she was rewarded almost immediately with a signal that was unmistakably from Griff.

A bit disturbed that he had never thought to change it after all they had been through while working for General Park, Traynor slaved the X3M's flight controls to the signal, enabling the speeder to fly directly to Griff's location on an empty dock.

Upon landing several meters from the big fellow, she slid the canopy forward and stood as the small engine spooled down to an idle.

"Looks as if your ship left without you, Griff," she said as he picked up his packs and began walking towards her with a chuckle.

As he closed the gap, he grinned and replied, "Damn, Sammy! That's a pretty accurate observation. You really have this info gathering business down cold." He tossed his packs into the rear of the passenger compartment as he met Traynor's gaze, their eyes level due to her standing in the speeder's front compartment.

"I didn't think I'd hear back from you until tonight," she said. "What happened?"

Griff chuckled again as he climbed into the speeder; as he sat down beside her, Sammy retook her seat and reengaged the small mass effect core and propulsion system while the canopy slid closed and latched over their heads. "Seems the Celestial Viper's captain found a salarian that would take over my cargo-master position for half of what I was being paid, so he invoked a clause in my contract, paid me what I was owed plus a small severance, then left without me." Another small chuckle, then, "Guess loyalty doesn't count for much these days."

"His loss is definitely my gain, if you're planning on joining me," she grinned. "You think you can get used to flying around in a Reaper turned Repository?"

Buchanan settled back in his seat as the speeder headed back for Delta Ward. "No … at least, not immediately. Those things did massive amounts of damage, Sammy … galaxy wide. It's still difficult for me, even knowing they're the reason that Commander Shepard walks among us again."

Traynor glanced at her companion as she replied in a soft voice, "She's on Thessia, joining in a matrimonial bond with Liara T'Soni." She shook her head as if still in disbelief at the recent turn of events. "Dr T'Soni has left all the equipment and properties she used as an information broker on Illium for me … for us … to use. Iringù-Eßizkur has assured me she will be as faithful to me as she was to Dr T'Soni during her hunt for Cerberus assets after the Normandy returned from the Far Rim."

Griff was silent for several minutes. Finally speaking as they crossed the Presidium Ring on their way to Traynor's apartment, he hesitantly voiced another doubt. "You know, Sammy … it just struck me that a person of your talents, having access to the specialized equipment aboard Iringù-Eßizkur, could have quite easily engineered that salarian's offer to steal my job on the Viper."

Sammy looked at Buchanan in amazement. When he remained silent, she calmly replied, "Griff, if you think that I would do such a thing to you, after all the time we spent together on missions, then this partnership is never going to work. I used my equipment to locate you … to locate the ship that employed you, and that's all I did."

She returned her gaze outside as the speeder began slowing for a landing. "I'll admit, I could have easily sabotaged your job on that freighter in the meager hope that you would join me out of … I don't know … desperation? I didn't … the thought never even occurred to me."

She shook her head as the X3M settled into the rooftop shelter. "Griff, look at me." When he reluctantly turned his greenish-grey eyes towards her, she fixed him with an intense stare. "I need to know, right now, before you get out of this speeder, what's it going to be? You gonna work with me?" Pausing for a moment, the scowling stare on her face intensified as she asked, "Are you in, or out … a hundred percent … or nothing."

Buchanan could feel the heat rising from inside his collar and crawling up his neck as he looked down and away in embarrassed silence. Her continued silent calm compelled him to look at her once again. "Traynor, I'm sorry. I should know better, and I apologize for even thinking you might have had a hand in me losing my job." He hesitantly reached over, offering his right hand. "You've always been straight up with me … hell, you saved my life on Cartagena Station, so yeah … I'm in a hundred percent … whatever you need me to do."

Sammy smiled as she gripped his hand and pumped it twice. "Good to know. Let's get downstairs, maybe grab a bite to eat. I have some components to assemble and test, then there's software upgrades to the equipment inside Iringù-Eßizkur. Lots to do." She climbed out of the speeder, insured the main entry door was latched and locked, then unlocked the stairwell and started down, followed by a resigned Buchanan.

Once they entered the apartment and Traynor locked the door behind them, Griff met her eyes. "Alright. If I'm doing this, we need to sit down for a bit; you need to fill me in on everything … and I do mean everything. I need to see the system, learn how it works, and what, exactly, you expect our partnership to yield … and where I fit into the whole thing." He dipped his head in embarrassment as he continued in a subdued voice, "I'm not who I was, Sammy. I'm not physically able to run ops anymore … I'd just get us both killed."

Traynor looked at him in silence for a moment and he relaxed a little after seeing no pity in her eyes. He felt even better about the deal as she responded, "I nearly died during my last op, Griff; I have no intention of either of us being field operatives, ever again. My initial idea was for me to become the information director and for you to direct the military ops, but we're partners, so nothing's set in stone. There are Broker teams out there, simply waiting for new instructions. Our first job will be to get the network fully up and operational … then, we find customers and put the teams to work gathering info we can sell. Simple as that."

"You make it sound easy." Griff looked at her skeptically. "But I know it won't be."

Traynor grinned at that. "But it's not that difficult either, because T'Soni already did all the hard work. We just have to step in and pick it back up like she did after she and Shepard killed the previous Broker."

"And, I assume, our job will be easier because T'Soni is still alive … and willing to help in the transition, I hope?" Griff raised an eyebrow and, for the first time, the start of a smile began to creep onto his face.

A hopeful Traynor smiled in return, offering up a light chuckle before answering, "Yes, she is … but she has a bonding and a honeymoon to enjoy first."

Beginning to feel cautiously optimistic, Buchanan nodded in acceptance and his demeanor brightened as he stated. "Alright. Not like we'll be ready to go anytime soon, anyway. Seems I've got a lot to learn, so how about we get started?"

Traynor grinned. "Alright then … partner. Let's start by showing you your quarters; you can stow your gear … and we can begin our lives as the new Shadow Broker. Right this way, Agent Buchanan."


Shepard had awakened slowly. It was liberating to have no real demands on her time … to simply be able to live at a more leisurely pace. Having nightly full-body contact with the blue goddess that had utterly captured her heart certainly contributed to Rachaél's sense of peace. She tipped her head slightly, relishing the captivating scent of Thessian Rose and eezo before placing a soft kiss on a pebbled forehead, smiling as the asari stirred slightly in reaction.

A contented sigh accompanied a dreamy stretch; Liara tilted her own head in order to place her lips on her Siame's neck just under her jaw before whispering, "Good morning, Rachaél. How did you sleep?"

"I might ask the same of you, Mo cheann geallta … but I believe I already know the answer."

The quiet chuckle she received in reply swelled her heart such that she took a deep, calming breath before once again applying her lips to the pebbled skin, this time to the top of her crests as she brought her right hand up to caress a bare shoulder. "I know we have to meet with the matriarchs in order to receive their blessing for our proposed union; what will happen if they don't approve of me, Blue?"

"After everything you have done? After all the pain you endured … with everyone, including the council, questioning and doubting your motivation … your actions? After enduring months trapped in the Normandy's computer core?"

Liara roused herself so she could look directly in the ocean-green eyes of her future life-partner. "If that bunch even hints at denying us their blessing …" She left the thought unfinished, as there was simply no alternative. If they could not gain the matriarchs approval, the children Liara might conceive with Shepard would not be permitted to lay claim to any of the T'Soni properties or holdings. As the only living heir of Benezia T'Soni, if Liara were to die without having children from an approved bonding, the entire T'Soni estate would revert to government ownership.

Rachaél grinned as she placed a light kiss on a freckled nose. "I'll speak with Aethyta. She had to deal with all the political crap when your mother kicked her out of her life. I can't imagine how she managed to survive that kind of betrayal, but survive she did." Placing a soft kiss on blue eyelids, Rachaél concluded, "She must have some friends on that council. They didn't hesitate to use her to keep you under surveillance on Ilium and on the Citadel, so I'm sure she'll have an opinion on who among them will be on our side in all this."


Rachaél Shepard had been asked to appear before the governing council of the Thessian Republic in order for them to ascertain the seriousness of her desire to bond with the sole heir of House T'Soni. As a future member of the ruling council—and possibly the Defense Committee—Liara was not allowed to provide testimony defending her choice of a mate; they were solely interested in this … human's … desire to join one of the most influential houses on the planet.

Most of them were only too well aware of Shepard's achievements before and during the Reaper War, but few had known of her ultimate sacrifice to end that war. There were several protests at accepting that Shepard had been resurrected not once … by Cerberus, no less, in order to fight the Collector menace, but a second time … through the combined efforts of the Reaper Harbinger and the employment of a cloned body. Several viable clones had been discovered in storage at a former Cerberus space station; the samples used to grow them had been taken from Shepard's own body during her time on a Cerberus operating table.

Rachaél's answers to their questions were most eloquent, but what had ultimately swayed the ruling council to approve Shepard's petition to join with Liara was her declared willingness to have a Justicar perform a memory meld in order to verify she was who she claimed to be. As it was Shepard that had volunteered to do this, she invoked her right—her privilege—to choose the Justicar for the invasive procedure. There were more than a few disbelievers among the council whose opinions were changed when the identity of the Justicar was revealed.

It was Justicar Samara that confirmed for the ruling council that not only was the human presenting herself as Rachaél Shepard the genuine article, but that she held no ulterior motive in her desire to become Liara T'Soni's bondmate. Samara stated under oath and in no uncertain terms that Shepard's entire reason—her only reason—for wanting to spend the rest of her life with Liara was the human's unwavering love and devotion to the leader of House T'Soni.

The additional testimony provided by the late Benezia T'Soni's surviving bondmate—and Liara's father—Matriarch Aethyta Beuss, along with some additional input from Citadel Councilor Raesia Tevos, convinced the few holdouts among the ruling Matriarchs to grant an official right of joining to Rachaél Shepard and Liara T'Soni, with all the benefits such a union would produce, including the rights of inheritance for any children produced from their union.

With the blessings received from the council, the only thing left was the actual ceremony.


As Lady Liara T'Soni stood at Shepard's side before the Priestess, she was relieved she had insisted on not having their formal bonding ceremony at the Temple of Athame in Serrice. The last thing either she or Shepard needed was to be reminded of their last, unfortunate visit there during the Reaper War. Of all the events they had survived, their crushing defeat at the hands of Kai Leng and Cerberus inside the temple had reduced their chance at victory to its slimmest margin since Shepard's death over Alchera. Liara shuddered as that unwelcome memory intruded once more into her mind.

To justify the exception, Liara had been compelled to recount the entire story to the temple's High Priestess. She explained everything that had happened from their landing on Thessia, overrun by Reapers and their corrupted agents, through the ultimate sacrifice made by so many scientists, acolytes and commandos, simply to ensure she and Rachaél made it to the temple. The final argument was how it had been all for naught after the final battle with Kai Leng, who—aided by covering fire and missiles from an A-61 gunship—had escaped with the Prothean VI and left Rachaél and herself virtually bereft of all hope.

Now, she was able to unceremoniously cast the horrible memory from her mind, simply by turning her head and taking in the visage of the precious woman who stood at her side. Spectre Shepard was arrayed in her dress uniform, something Liara had never seen her wear until they began to discuss the apparel for the formal bonding. It was very similar to her Alliance dress uniform, only the jacket was the Spectre silver and the trousers a midnight blue so dark they appeared black to an observer's casual glance.

She smiled at the memory of the first time Shepard modeled it for her, simply so Liara could see how she looked wearing it. "You cut quite the dashing figure in that, Rachaél … and you say it is customary for officers to wear their dress uniform at human weddings? You absolutely must wear this for our bonding!"

Liara had seen the weak protest forming on Rachaél's lips until the asari's final statement. Hearing that, the Spectre had simply finished fastening the topmost clasp and smiled softly. "If that's what you want, Liara, that's what you'll get … but, you'll need to procure a matching dress to go with it.'

She had clapped in childish glee and thanked Shepard for indulging her, knowing a silver gown with midnight blue piping would be relatively easy to have made … certainly soon enough for the bonding ceremony on Thessia.

All the memories, both good and bad, passed through her mind in mere moments as the Priestess activated their bonding bracelets, temporarily linking them together, physically, as one. The time had come for their long awaited union to become official; they had promised themselves to one another long ago, the announcement of which, surprisingly, had been accepted by Liara's father, Aethyta, without honest protest. Now, all the preliminaries were complete – so, the final vows would be spoken and the activated bonding bracelets placed upon their wrists. Neither Liara nor Shepard could keep from smiling as the final portion of the ceremony began.

"As the Tides have been for centuries, the Tides shall always be. As the tide of your Love has grown, the tide of your Love shall always be strong, forever lapping at the universe's shores of Eternity." The Priestess of Athame smiled at the young couple before her and reached out, taking a hand from each of them in her own. She focused on Liara as she continued, "Lady Liara T'Soni. Will you give your heart, your mind, and your soul, so that you and Spectre Rachaél Shepard may be as one under the Goddess Athame?"

Liara's glistening blue eyes moved from the Priestess to her beloved as she eagerly stated, "By every known interpretation of the word, Rachaél Shepard is my Siame, the one I will always cherish above all others. There is no other with whom I would be one." She paused, took a deep breath, and looked back to the Priestess, answering simply, "I will."

The Priestess nodded and turned to Liara's Promised. "Will you, Spectre Rachaél Shepard, join Lady Liara T'Soni in Eternity, so your hearts shall beat as one, your love shall ride the waves to the ends of the Thessian seas, and your souls shall rise amongst the stars until your essential essence returns to the universe?"

Shepard tumbled into Liara's eyes, lost for a moment in the unbridled passion and adoration she saw there. Rachaél had to close her eyes and break the connection for an instant to get the words in her mind to make their way to her lips. "Liara is mo cheann geallta, my promised one, and the grá mo chroí, the love of my heart." She opened her eyes once more, causing Liara to inhale sharply at the emerald fire she saw within as Rachaél said, "There is no other with whom I would be one." She nodded gently in affirmation of her lover's reaction before turning to the Priestess to say, "I will."

"Then with the promise of a blessing of your union by the Goddess Athame …" She withdrew her hands and picked up the activated bracelets, holding them before the duo. As they slid their hands through the circlets, the Priestess' hands glowed with biotics and the bracelets slowly shrank in size until they fit each wrist perfectly. She continued softly, "… the bond is begun in earnest. These bracelets demonstrate the circle of life, the infinite love and commitment each of you holds for the other, the physical as well as the spiritual blending of two souls into a joined presence, together for eternity."

Her biotics faded and she released her hold, withdrawing her hands. "Your bracelets, like your souls, will remain forever linked … and physically connected until your bonding meld is complete. Their separation will indicate when the full blessings of Athame have been bestowed upon your union."

Liara and Rachaél—carefully moving their arms within the linked bracelets so they could clasp hands—turned toward each other with their faces just a few centimeters apart and knelt before the Priestess, who laid her hands gently upon their heads, encouraging them to lean into one another and begin their bonding meld.

Shepard gently touched her forehead to Liara's and calmed her thoughts; after a moment, she felt the gentle, welcome presence at the back of her mind and opened herself fully to her Ionúin Álainn. {Liara. You are fully aware of the depth of my love for you. You are the star of each night and the brightness of every morning. I will lay down my own life for you should such become necessary. There shall never be another in this existence that is more important to me than you.} Rachaél could 'see' the happy smile of her Ionúin Álainn in her mind as she finished; the happiness she felt brought tears to her eyes as she waited for Liara's answering pledge of love.

{Rachaél. I believe our meeting on Therum was a gift from the Goddess. It was shortly after you rescued me from the trap in the Prothean ruins that I first touched your mind … where the seeds of my love for you took root and began to grow. I pledge to you that yours will be the name I cry aloud in the night and the eyes into which I smile in the morning. I shall always be a shield for your back, just as you have been and continue to be for mine. I will honor your culture as we join customs to form a trusting relationship, anchored in mutual respect and loving adoration. I am yours, Siame, until the final turning of the tides delivers all of us to the far away shores of Athame's celestial realm.}

Shepard felt the slowly diminishing presence that was Liara as the asari lovingly withdrew from her mind; opening her eyes to the physical world, Rachael gazed into an adoring pair of eyes the color of azurite and smiled. She was only dimly aware of the priestess offering the final blessing of their union; upon uttering the final word, the bond holding their bracelets together dissolved, freeing their wrists. The Spectre instantly used her newly freed arm to reach around Liara's side; placing the palm of her hand against the sensitive folds of her lower back, she spread her fingers wide as she hugged the asari tightly to her body and pressed their lips together. "I never allowed myself to believe we could achieve this amount of happiness, my Ionúin Álainn." Rachaél's words were not spoken or whispered so much as breathed as their lips parted. "That we stand here together, our union blessed by the Goddess, is no less than a minor miracle."

They turned their heads in unison to look at the priestess, who bade them stand and face the assembled guests; saying, "In the eyes of Athame these humble people, a human and an asari, are forever joined by a bond as unbreakable as their bracelets. May their union be forever blessed by the Goddess."

A/N: And so we have reached the end of this portion of Rachaél Shepard's odyssey, begun so many months before with her choice of synthesis for organic and machine life. Thanks to my Beta reader and (more importantly) my co-author, Desert Sunrise, Rachaél and Liara are officially bondmates. Liara has left her inherited job as the Shadow Broker; Rachaél, though still a Spectre, will resign from the Systems Alliance in an attempt to enjoy her 'happy ever after' with the love of her life. Thanks to everyone for following this story.

Unfortunately, the galaxy continues to harbor those whose livelihood depends upon preying on innocents, whether by piracy, extortion or trading in slaves. Samantha Traynor and Griffen Buchanan, using the specialized equipment installed inside Iringù-Eßizkur, will be rebuilding the Shadow Broker network in the belief that information is still the most powerful force in the galaxy; with their help, Captains Bill Cody and Yuán Xiùlán will be out to stop the gangs, beginning with the Blue Suns.

Thanks to everyone following this story; it continues on in Resurrection of the Shadow Broker.