DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story might not make complete sense to you if you've never played Mass Effect before (What? Be still my aching heart! Go to your nearest store and find it!) – but then again it just might. I've included a post-script in case you haven't and you're still curious. Just a dramatic little behind-the-scenes drabble I had to write.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To kalexy[at]webmail.co.za

Rocky ground
By karen alexander


Another day, another crappy mission. Couldn't the Alliance sort out one bloody thing themselves? Irritably propping her helmet under her arm Commander Jane Shepard entered the small office behind the Normandy's med bay, approaching the Asari who was currently hunched forward over some or other artefact.


Although the hydraulic hiss of the door should have alerted Dr Liara T'soni to her presence, the woman still startled before turning around in her chair.

"Shepard. I'm sorry, I didn't hear you. This orb…" She motioned vaguely at the faintly glowing object in front of her, and to Shepard the motion was eloquent. When the archaeologist started a project she frequently got so caught up in it that the rest of the world ceased to exist.

"I understand, Liara." Shifting the helmet around against her tiring grip, Shepard smiled. "I didn't want to disturb you, but I'm about to head out to explore a planet and I wondered whether you'd like to come along."

Liara's blue eyes widened and then dropped guiltily. "In the Mako? With you?" The last two words were whispered as Liara turned her gaze back to the orb – and her back on Shepard. They had probably not been meant to be heard.

"Planet's called Nodacrux. Hackett thinks there's an ExoGeni facility somewhere down there, so I'm going to…" Shepard petered off as Liara's words sunk in. Frowning, she cocked her head at the Asari. "Liara, I thought we were past this. Is it still going to be a problem for you?"

"No, I have so much work to do, and I …" Liara's graceful hands hovered above the orb purposelessly for a moment before she took a breath and turned back around to face the Commander. "Shepard, I admire you greatly in your professional capacity. You have many skills and are an excellent Commander. However, in this regard I can't honestly say that I approve of your …" Her gaze dropped again ruefully.

Sighing, Shepard turned to put the bulky helmet on one of the crates nearby, and then leaned back against the wall, folding her arms. "Liara, is it really that bad? Can you really not stand it with me for even an hour? I could use your help down there. We've picked up an unidentified signal, and if it's the facility I can put us down as close as possible to limit the amount of time you'll have to spend in the Mako with me. And I'll behave."

Rising from her chair Liara shook her head. "I'm sorry, Shepard. I'm trying, I truly am, but it's simply too much. It's a small space, and … you make me sick, Shepard, and as much as I would like for that not to be the case, I cannot help it."

"Well." Raising her eyebrows Shepard shrugged. "I didn't realise you were quite so affected by it. Somehow I thought you'd be more tolerant to this sort of thing. I wish we could sort it out, Liara – I don't like that this is influencing our working together – but I really can't make you okay with it. Perhaps we can talk when I get back."

Liara sighed and dropped her head in relief. "I doubt that there is anything you can say to change my mind, Shepard. It's a physical reaction and there is very little I can do about that. But thank you for allowing me to be honest with you. It cannot be easy for you to hear." Looking up she offered the other woman a very small smile. "You should take Ashley with you. She does not mind the bumping and grinding. In fact, I think she might even enjoy it as much as you do."

It took a fair few seconds for Shepard to close her mouth, and even then a startled inarticulate sound escaped her before she could stop it. Clearing her throat she pushed herself away from the wall and stalked towards the Asari.

"Liara." Counting off on her fingers. "One. I do not have the slightest intention of finding out whether gunnery chief Ashley Williams enjoys 'bumping and grinding' as much as I do." Another step closer, and now Liara's expression was uncertain. "Two. Wherever you heard that phrase – and I am very sure it was from Joker - it is not at all applicable to driving skills." One dark eyebrow shot up. "Three. I do not grind the Mako's gears. Ever. There may be some bumping, which we both understand you don't enjoy, but I do. Not. Grind."

"Some bumping?" Liara retaliated aggrievedly. "When you want to get from point A to point B you simply hurtle that vehicle into space! You completely disregard the fact that there is most likely a more level road available – you drive straight off cliffs; you drive straight up mountains… Is it any wonder that all that shaking and bouncing makes me sick?" She paused for breath and her brow furrowed. "What is the meaning of 'bumping and grinding' then?"

Propping her hands on her hips Shepard raised her eyebrows and gave Liara a pointed look. The Asari stared back at her, confusion evident, until Shepard's full mouth stretched into a slow wicked smile. Liara's eyes widened and a flush suffused her blue skin.

"Oh. It seems that the vagaries of human linguistics do still elude me somewhat." A smile threatened to pull at the corners of her mouth. "I would very much prefer it, then, if you did not investigate Ashley's level of interest in … that."

Stepping so close to Liara now that she could see the flecks of darker blue in the Asari's eyes, Shepard grinned and leaned forward, planting a quick but firm kiss on the serious mouth in front of her. "No problem, my love. No pesky 'bumping and grinding' for either of us today."

Liara swatted at her arm, and then put her hands on Shepard's hips and pulled her closer for a longer, more thorough kiss. When they separated again she smiled at the dazed look in the Commander's eyes.

"I said not with Ashley, Commander. I didn't say none."

The End

* BioWare/EA's trilogy "Mass Effect" is a brilliant space-based RPG where you take on the role of Commander Shepard (you choose your appearance and your first name, and charmingly, also your gender). Shepard gathers a team (including various aliens, like the beautiful blue Asari) to assist her in various assignments, some of which involve landing on planets in a tank-like vehicle called a Mako for exploration. Depending on the gravity, atmosphere and so forth, as well as the landscape, driving on these planets can range from smooth to absolutely crazy. Dr Liara T'Soni is one of Shepard's crew members, an Asari archaeologist who sometimes doesn't quite grasp the nuances of human dialect.

And by the by, in the game you can actually start a relationship with Liara if you so choose. Even if your character is a female. Yay progression.

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