DISCLAIMER: Mass Effect is the property of Bioware. This series is done purely for fun and I am making no profit off of this in any way. The series will cover the already known Mass Effect Universe with some (obvious) tweaking. While I will attempt to stay close to canon there will obviously be some artistic liberties taken to conform this series to my liking. This series is also going to portray love and sex between two or more women with minor references to some m/f pairings. There will be multiple f/f pairings and yes, this will eventually be a harem fic of sorts, so if that is not your thing then please move on. This story will also contain scenes of violence, death, and other content of dark nature (no rape however) further down the road.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: My character is based on a mostly Renegade, Earthborn, Soldier, who lived through the battle of Torfan.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To xfiredancerx[at]gmail.com

Six Degrees of Separation Series
Book 1: Tangled

By Firedancer


Chapter 10: Skeletons

Alex slowly became aware of the warmth that was curled up against her side, and the gentle tickle of Liara's steady breathing as she continued to slumber. On the other side of Liara, she could hear Ashley's soft snores, attesting to the fact that she was the only one who was awake yet. Not willing to disturb her companions and despite her own recent nap, Alex gave into the lassitude that had settled in her body and allowed her mind to drift for the next half hour as she dozed on and off. It wasn't until Liara finally stirred and stretched that all three women began to awaken.

Alex turned her head and cracked her eyes open in time to see Liara open her own eyes. Blue met grey and a soft smile appeared on each of their faces. "Sleep well?" Alex asked, her voice still a bit rough from her own sleep.

"I did. No nightmares?"

"Not even a hint of them," Alex answered, grateful for the uninterrupted sleep. She hadn't realized just how physically wearing on her the nightmares had become.

"Do you dream about what happened to the Protheans?" Ashley asked quietly, having understood for some time now that the message from the beacon had been intense, graphic, and deeply disturbing to the Commander. It had been at the heart of Shepard's single-minded drive to stop Saren and Sovereign, no matter what the cost.

Alex tensed a bit, not sure if she was ready to talk about it just yet. Liara felt it, and Ashley sensed it in the silence. The brunette rolled out of bed and limped around until she was on Alex's side and then motioned for her and Liara to shift over so she could recline next to Alex. Once they were all resettled, Ash rolled onto her side and propped herself up on her elbow so she could look down at Alex.

"I understand not wanting to talk about it Alex. I grew up with a former counselor as a mom and to this day I still fight having to talk it out, even though I know that I'll feel better afterwards. Why do you think her and I were gone for so long that second day? She hadn't just heard you, she'd heard me wake up from my own nightmares and spent over an hour wearing me down enough to finally talk to her about everything," Ashley admitted with a rueful chuckle.

"Funny isn't it?"

"What is?"

"Our whole lives have been about survival. Mine physical, yours has been your career. We've been forced to close ourselves off from everything around us except for that single determination to survive and succeed, knowing that all it could take is one sign of weakness and everything would be over. So much rides on us, but a single word could bring it all tumbling down. Craziest thing to me though, is Chakwas knows that mentally we aren't fit for duty, but didn't insist on counseling because she knew they would ground us both either long-term or permanently. She took a gamble in hoping we could work things out on our own, because she knows what's at stake and what could be lost if we aren't allowed to go back out there and fight."

"That or she was well aware of the fact that my family was coming to visit and knew my mother would handle things."

"She did?"

"She knew that my family was visiting and asked me to send her regards to my mom. In one of my letter's home I'd mentioned Dr. Chakwas' name and it turns out that they both worked at the Alliance's Medical Branch in London for a couple of years before Chakwas was finally granted a post on a ship. Chakwas patched up the broken bodies, mom came in and helped patch up their broken spirits."

"Huh," Alex grunted. After a minute she smirked slightly. "Chakwas is one slick woman. Always thinking two steps ahead."

"If she hadn't gone into Medical, I think she could easily have been in Intel. The woman is observant as all hell," Ashley agreed in wry amusement.

"Did it help talking with your mother Ashley?" Liara asked, steering them back to the conversation at hand.

"It did, and I felt stupid afterwards for resisting so much, because I knew I would help to begin with."

There was a moment of silence and then Alex finally asked in a subdued voice what her nightmares had been about. Ash lay back down on her pillow and stared up at the ceiling for a few seconds. "Take your pick I guess. Eden Prime….Virimire…the Citadel. Mostly about Eden Prime though. I'd been shipped to so many backwater posts over the last few years, and everyone else was so bitter about their assignments I'd never really gotten close to any of my units. But Eden Prime was different. The world was beautiful, the colony was close and I was reunited with most of my platoon from H.E.A.T. They respected my leadership skills and we were all pretty close. "

"Heat?" Liara asked, confused.

"H.E.A.T.," Ash said spelling out the letters. "It stands for Hostile Environment Assault Training. It's a brutal four month training program on Titan that teaches us to aggressive assault training techniques and how to adapt to any given situation. That was where I finally had an instructor recognize me for my skills and not my name. Gunny Chief Ellison was a hard-ass instructor, but he was also fair. Received my first promotion from him, and I think he was behind getting my old platoon assigned to me on Eden Prime. It was nice to finally have some friendly faces around." Ashley's smile began to fade however. "Which just made it all the harder to lose some of them. Some of those people were like family to me by the time of the invasion."

"Niralia Bhatia?" Shepard guessed.

"Amongst others, but she and I were the closest. Neither of us was on duty that day actually. I was supposed to meet her at the spaceport to check out some of the new hard suits that were coming in, and then we were going to head up to the lakes to swim and relax. My LT called me in for a briefing though, and Nira told be she needed to pick up a few things anyway and she'd meet me at the port when I was done. My Lieutenant was just wrapping up the briefing, which was about beefing up security for the scientists that were suddenly digging all over the place, when the first attack came. I grabbed my gear and started recalling my squad. Saren knew right where to hit us though. Bastard dropped his Geth right on our base, and half our people were slaughtered just trying to get to their barracks and their gear. Nira was one of them," Ash said quietly as a tear slipped down the side of her face to soak the pillow below.

"By the time the remaining members of my unit were able to rally at my location, I only had six out of twenty people alive, and four of them were fresh out of basic. Johnson, Gomez and I tried to keep those kids calm and focused on the fight, but they were just too damn scared because we were so overwhelmed. As soon as the first one got his head blown off, the other three broke and ran. They didn't last five seconds out in the open, and the last of us were forced to fall back to where one of the other units were supposed to be fighting. By the time we got there, they were putting out that distress call, and half their unit was dead as well. More Geth were dropped on our location, the LT was killed as one dropped right on his head, and I finally gave the order for all units to fall back and assist with evacuating the colony. Gomez and Johnson followed me towards the spaceport to see if we could secure any of the evacuation shuttles, but I lost them as we started to near the dig site, not realizing that was what the Geth were after."

It was quiet for a minute and then Alex finally spoke up. "I know I was a complete bitch to you back on that planet Ash and I'm sorry because I know it had to have made the pain of losing everyone worse. I was still reeling from the giant fuck-up on Torfan, I'd just lost Jenkins, and I was in the middle of a fight with Geth of all things. I shouldn't have said what I did to you like that," she apologized.

"No you shouldn't have," Ash said without any venom. "But after finding out what'd happened to your own team, I understood you were probably just venting."

"Torfan?" Liara asked.

Neither woman missed Shepard's flinch. Ash was about to answer for Alex, but the blonde stopped her. "No…it's okay. I suppose your mom's right and I need to let this out before it eats me up. Besides, all you really know is the official story Ash, not what lead up to one of the worst losses of Marines in recent history."

Alex took a deep breath and began her story. "You both know that my life has always been a hard one. It's public record that I was one of the Alliance's 'diamonds in the rough'. I wasn't a gifted biotic. I didn't have a degree in anything, and I wasn't following tradition. I was just some kid who grew up on the streets and did whatever I needed to in order to survive. It was brutal and harsh and I learned the hard way that the only one I could trust and rely upon was myself. I barely passed my exams, and I think the only reason they really let me in was because the old man stuck up for me and I could fight like no one else. Those survival instincts were deeply ingrained in me though, and no matter how hard they tried at the Academy, they couldn't break me of that. I learned to work with my teams, but I had earned a reputation for being a lone wolf, and a renegade. The irony was they couldn't dispute my performance, because I always got the job done. I started rising through the ranks quickly, but Command was always on me for not working with my team and as a team. Guess they figured giving me a unit of my own would break me of that habit, because now I had people who were relying on me not to get them killed. Was the first time I was actually scared.

"On the streets, when I ran with my gang, our lives were meaningless unless you were at the top. Turf wars raged every other week, and people died all the time. We were all expendable to those in charge, and to the rest of the world, the dead were just another statistic. I think that was how I always saw myself before I was promoted, and that was why I was never afraid to die. But now I was the one in charge, and I realized these men and women weren't expendable. Time and money had been spent in the effort to train them and now I was in charge of directing them into dangerous situations without getting them killed. At the time, it was my worst nightmare," Alex admitted ruefully.

"A few weeks before Torfan, our unit along with two others, were running training exercises nearby when the uprising at Mars Theta Penal One hit. Command asked us to go in and conduct a locate and capture of the inmates that had managed to escape to the mountain range east of the facility. About two dozen of those bastards had holed up in a small series of caves and they'd managed to get their hands on a good sized load of weapons and a few explosives. The locals had already fully mapped the caves so we knew every exit and entrance. We were also informed that many of the caves weren't stable any more. Unstable environment and the prisoners had the tactical advantage from inside- it would have been suicide to try and breech, and I suggested we just wait them out. They may have had some decent defenses, but their supplies were finite. With no food or water it probably wouldn't have been more than a week before they would finally be forced to give up or die of dehydration and starvation. Unfortunately, I was the newest C.O. of all the unit Commanders and my idea was disregarded by the more experienced Commanders," she said bitterly.

"As they began to lay out their plans, I realized they were going to get people killed. I voiced my objections, but they decided to go ahead with the breech anyway. Pissed off, I took matters into my own hands. The breech wasn't going to happen until early morning, so I waited until after dark and slipped away from our camp. I stripped off all my weapons except from my combat knife and a single implosion grenade, and then snuck into one of the entrances. I took down three of their sentries silently before I finally found them all holed up in the deepest cave, arguing over what to do next. Needless to say they were a little surprised to see me," she smirked.

"I bet. Was a little insane of you to go in there all by yourself though Shep," Ash said with a raised eyebrow.

"I wouldn't argue that," Alex chuckled quietly. "So I waltzed right in there, explained the facts to them, and told them there was no way of escaping. I also made it clear that I wasn't about to risk my men getting killed by some stupid cave-in while trying to extract a bunch of scumbags that were holed up like the rats they were. I showed them the grenade and made damn sure they understood exactly what it would do if I set it off right then and there. We stared each other down, and they realized that if I was crazy enough to walk in there virtually unarmed, I was probably crazy enough to blow us all to hell. They threw down their arms right then and there, but wanted a few reasonable requests. Seems the Warden was engaging in some illegal operations and inmates were disappearing, but in reality being reported as killed during a fight or dying from some illness. It was the whole reason behind the uprising, and they were all willing to accept the consequences of their actions so long as I promised that I would see to it a full scale investigation was launched immediately and that the Warden wouldn't touch them.

I guaranteed their safety out of the caves if they agreed to cooperate with my orders, and that I see to it that my Superiors looked into the matter immediately. I assured them that I would pay a personal visit to the Warden to let him know that no one had better 'disappear' while he awaited his own investigation and they agreed to everything. I let them pass around the bottle of rum one of the locals had given me earlier in the day and then walked them all out of the cave hands on their heads. The other CO's were of course furious, and when one of them started to get rough with a prisoner that wasn't doing anything wrong, I knocked him on his ass for it. I was given a commendation for finding a peaceful resolution to the situation, and then dressed down for over two hours about striking a fellow officer and not going along with the plan. They knew the plan was shit, they knew it would have resulted in unnecessary deaths on both sides, but they are so stuck on their idea of working as a team, they couldn't let my actions slide and I got a mark in my file."

Liara and Ashley murmured in quiet disapproval over that action, but let Alex continue her story. "A few weeks later we found ourselves at Torfan with one of the other units from Mars. I was still furious over what had happened, and to make matters worse I was stuck working with Jervis, the asshole I'd punched. We argued over strategy, when he came up with another shit plan and finally he pulled rank. It was a bait and trap strategy and my unit was to be the bait. I argued that my men were too vulnerable, but then I let him get to me by questioning my ability to lead and their ability to fight. Bastard hadn't even done a recon, and his team was almost completely wiped out just trying to get into position. I lost a quarter of my team before I realized there was no back-up. By then it was too late to do anything else, and the slavers were preparing to leave with their haul of the colonists they'd captured. With Jervis dead, I knew I alone would take the blame if we lost those colonists and I wasn't about to lose this mission. So I ordered an all out assault knowing that we had almost no defensible ground to fall back on. All that mattered was that I could get to the ship and blow one of it's engines and ground it."

Alex stared off into the distance as memories of that horrible day came back to her. "It was like being back on the streets in the middle of a raging turf war again. Shots and screams and blood everywhere. I took several hits to my armor by the time I got to the ship and set the charges. I was pumped so full of adrenaline, stims and Omni-gel I didn't even realize two bullets had made it through my plating. Once the ship was grounded, the slavers poured out, pissed as hell. My men didn't stand a chance, but I ordered us to hold our ground. We managed to whittle their numbers down to about a dozen before they finally threw down their weapons and surrendered. I was so far into the battle-rush that I did what came instinctively - what I had learned the hard way on the streets. I shot every one of those bastards before they could change their minds when they realized there was barely a half dozen of my Marines left and every single one of us was injured. I was patched up, sent in for the formal Inquiry into my actions, and once I was cleared of any dereliction of duty, I was given a token pat on the head for saving the colonists and then reassigned to the Normandy."

Ashley spoke up, her voice thoughtful. "Looking back, do you think that their Inquiry was also them feeling you out as a possible candidate for becoming a Spectre?"

Alex was silent for a minute as she thought about that. "Huh….never would have really thought of it in that light, but…you might be right Ash. I'd been through Inquiries before, but that had by far, been the most intensive. They seemed determined to make me start questioning my actions, but the more they pushed the more I stood by what I did and for some reason I got the sense this satisfied them more than it really should have."

"It is widely known that Spectres work almost exclusively on their own. By your own admission, you have always been more comfortable working alone and relying upon no one but yourself. From what I have heard, your military relies heavily on strength in numbers and there would probably be few candidates who would excel working as a lone operative. Fewer still who could have the wide range of skills you possessed along with Command experience. You were the ideal candidate for becoming he first Human Spectre," Liara reasoned.

"But they took a huge risk putting you back out in the field like that so quickly," Ashley remarked. " After what happened on Eden Prime with that damned beacon.." she paused and shook her head. "Anyone else probably would have lost it completely and we would all be dead."

"This whole situation has been one giant cluster fuck. Rogue Spectres, Reapers, genetic experiments, good people dying…God Liara, I don't even know how you managed to deal with going up against your mother like that and not losing it," Alex said, reminded once more that she and Ash weren't the only one's nursing open emotional wounds. She heard the young Asari's breathing catch in the slightest of chokes and wrapped her arm around slender blue shoulders more tightly.

"My mother and I did not see eye to eye on a great many things as I grew older. I thought it was because I was a Pureblood and she was ashamed of what I represented- choices in her life that she regretted. She had been well on her way to becoming a popular Matriarch and Priestess in our society when she had me. I was always well aware of the fact that my existence cost her some standing amongst our people. I knew she loved me, but the rift between us seemed to grow larger every year. My mother humored my choice in career, even if she did not agree with it. We did not speak for years at a time after I left, but she never once spoke harshly against my choice. At least I know she was proud of the stand I made and of me…before…"she broke off her voice finally catching as tears streaked down her face.

"It's okay Li," Alex whispered pulling the smaller woman tightly against her as Liara had done for her the night before. Ash reached across them both, adding her own comfort as Liara finally allowed herself to grieve for the loss of her mother.

It was brief, and not nearly as intense as Shepard's was, but then Liara had seemed to already make her peace with her mother's death, and there was the fact that they had apparently not had a very close relationship to begin with. When she finally relaxed back into her own pillow, Alex and Ash helped to dry her eyes, and Alex leaned forward to press a gentle kiss against Liara's forehead.

"Guess we all have our own demons to deal with," she remarked sadly.

"Ghosts that will probably haunt us until the day we die," Ashley agreed somberly.

"Pasts that will forever guide who were are and how we will always react to a situation no matter how much we might want to change," Liara said with a flash of sudden insight.

Alex caught the look and sighed heavily, knowing exactly what Liara was referring to. It was time to bite the bullet and bring up the matter of what they were going to do about their evolving feelings for one another. "And therein lies the challenge of what to do about us. I know how much I care for both of you, and yes, if Tali were still here, she'd be included in that statement as well. But I've never allowed myself to be this close to anyone…ever, and quite frankly my instincts are screaming at me to get out and run. On top of that, my training is right there with it, reminding me that I could be jeopardizing two careers if I take things any further with you Ash."

She watched as Ashley opened her mouth to argue, but laid a finger against soft full lips to still her words. "I know you said you were willing to risk it for this Ash, but you have no idea how hard it is for me to just go along with that…especially now when you are so close to fulfilling a life-long career goal that you have worked harder than anyone else to achieve."

"I don't understand," Liara broke in quietly. "Are you saying it is against your military protocols to be romantically involved with one another?"

"For Ashley and I, yes. Regulations do not allow for officers to fraternize or have a relationship with an enlisted soldier. Officers can date other officer and enlisted with enlisted, so long as you are of the same rank, or are in no way under the senior officer's chain of command. The only exceptions are for a married couple serving together, and one of them receives a promotion. As long as the Senior Officer in such an arrangement never shows any favoritism they are allowed to remain posted together. Ash and I would not only be breaking the regs of fraternizing between enlisted and officer, but I am her CO."

"I understand now," Liara said, realizing why both women had kept their emotional distance from each other despite the obvious attraction between each of them.

"But my biggest concern has always been my ability to retain control. Every time I lose control, people die, and I don't want to lose either of you any time soon. Those regs are there for a good reason, and once we get back out there, I need to be the Commander. I can't have my judgment clouded by emotional attachments. Too much is at stake right now," Alex admitted finally.

"You fear that this could lead to some kind of permanent emotional commitment that may effect your ability to lead us once we are back on duty," Liara assessed.

Alex winced, hearing it stated so bluntly. "Look I'm not saying that I'm just looking for…a one night stand or something. You mean far too much to me for it to be like that. But I don't want anyone hurt by taking this too far without knowing what we are getting into."

"Alex? No matter what happens between up personally, I wouldn't want to serve under any other Commanding Officer. When we get back on that ship, I know things will have to go back to the way they were and I would never ask anything more of you because I understand the need to keep your head in the game. All I want, is a chance to enjoy something special here and now with you and Liara while we still can," Ash confessed.

They exchanged a long searching look before Alex nodded, reassured by what she saw and then turned her head towards Liara. "Li?" she asked gently. "I know it's got to be hard for you to understand all of this, but-,"

Now it was her words being still by a slightly calloused fingertip. "Alexis, these past months have been some of the most incredible of my life. All those decades working mostly by myself, digging around in ancient ruins…I would have never guessed that my knowledge would some day lead me into the middle of galactic espionage and a battle that could mean either the savior or destruction of all life in our galaxy. I was exposed to cultures and races I had only read about, felt the exhilaration of a battle won, and experienced emotions I had never felt before. What I began to feel for you, and Ashley…and Tali," she said, admitting that too she also cared deeply for their Quarian friend. "These feelings were new, and confusing, and a little frightening because they were so intense. I knew there would be challenges, but I want to explore these emotions, and no goal is worth reaching for if there aren't obstacles to overcome along the way."

Alex was silent for a moment as she digested that and then looked between Liara and Ashley. "Then if we decide to…explore deeper levels of our friendship, for now, no one is expecting anything more?" There were head shakes and Alex pressed further. "Once we are back on duty, things will go back to the way they were and no one is going to try to pull any emotional strings to undermine my orders or decisions?"

"Only if you promise not to try and keep us out of harms way simply because you care for us more than others Alex," Ash tossed back at her with equal seriousness.

An unspoken name passed between them and Alex flinched slightly. "He may have been an officer and you just an enlisted grunt, but I had a stronger biotic on the team and you were by far a better fighter. I will never say any of my men were expendable, but I had others that could fill the gap his death created. I have taken you on every mission I've been on, Chief, and that's not about to change."

"Aye aye, Skipper," Ash said with a reassured smile.


"Yeah?" Alex turned her head towards the young Asari, their faces only inches apart.

"You have nothing to fear from either of us. We all know what is at stake, and we all know that nothing can distract us from succeeding in our need to stop this threat. But the Goddess's have chosen to bless us with this chance to be reminded of what we are fighting to protect, and I for one would like to embrace this opportunity…however brief it may be."

With that, she leaned in and placed a light kiss on Shepard's lips. Ashley, who had propped herself up on her arm once more, watched with a warm smile on her face as the two kissed tenderly…almost timidly. Ash ran her fingers along the base of Alex's skull, enjoying the shiver she felt as the other two women embraced each other tighter, the kiss finally deepening. When they broke for air, Ashley leaned in and exchanged slow kisses with each of them before she lay back down and snuggled up against Alex, content to simply enjoy the rush of emotions and sensations through her body.

Oh she wanted more, and she could tell they did also. But Alex had been right- all of their wounds were still too raw right now, and they needed some time. Besides, her family would be back in the morning and they still had another three more days. Ash didn't feel like starting something that they couldn't enjoy uninterrupted over the next few days. She could however, fantasize about how exactly she wanted to spend the rest of their leave. It made for some very pleasant dreams later that night as they all slept wrapped around each other once more.


Chapter 11: A Storm Weathered

It was perhaps one of the most spectacular sunsets yet. A storm had rolled through earlier, blanketing the island in a refreshing rain that took the edge off the heat a bit. The smell of clean ozone and fresh water still lingered in the air, competing with the ever present scent of wild flowers and the salty ocean breeze. It made for a heady mixture, that only enhanced the slowly changing canvas that was being painted up above their heads. Light blue was giving way to purples, and gold was transforming into orange and crimson. The sea was beginning to calm from the storm's brief excitement, and the beauty of the heavens was reflected on the rolling surface below.

Two women stood at the edge of the surf, the water occasionally washing over their unshod feet before receding back out in its endless cycle. They silently watched as the last sliver of sun dipped below the horizon with a final flare that promised it's return in a few mere hours. As darkness began to chase away the multitude of colors in the sky, silence continued to reign between the two companions. Birds of all variations called out to one another, the surf continued to crash gently against the shore, the leaves and palm fronds swayed in the breeze, and the nocturnal animals began to chitter and cry out their greetings to the approaching night.

When the first stars began to appear, the younger of the two turned to her companion. "Thank you for helping me…for helping all of us Ruth."

Ruth turned to Commander Alexis Shepard and smiled warmly. "It was my pleasure dear. I am glad that I was able to be of some assistance."

"You were- even if I was angry with you for barging into my room at first," Alex chuckled. She was quiet for a few more moments. "I always figured they'd insist on me seeing a shrink at some point, and I was dreading the whole experience. Figured they'd take one look at me and that would be it. Alliance could probably use someone with your skills right now Ruth."

"High praise indeed," Ruth laughed, amused. "And perhaps I'll consider it once Sarah heads off to college in the fall. But for now I am content with having contributed to helping three of the Citadel Battle Heroes work through their trauma enough to begin the healing process."

"Thank you for talking with Liara yesterday. She let go a little with us the day you all went to Hawaii, but I knew that couldn't be the full extent of her grief. She seems more at peace with things today, and I know she slept better last night too."

That made Ruth smirk a bit. "Hmmm, it did now did it? And you know this how?" she asked, well aware that the three women had been carrying on the pretense of sleeping in their own rooms, when in reality they had been sneaking into Shepard's room each night after everyone else had gone to bed.

She could see Shepard's blush even in the receding light and couldn't help but laugh. "What they say about mothers is true, my dear Commander Shepard. We really do have eyes in the back of our heads and we know everything that goes on around us. We simply choose to silently allow what we approve of and speak up of the things we don't."

"So, you don't mind that we've been sharing the same bed each night for the last few nights?" Alex asked hesitantly.

"I do not, simply because I know nothing more than comforting one another and sleeping is all that is occurring right now."

"I…see. And if it were more?" Alex pressed, suddenly worried that Ruth may object to more.

Ruth as quiet for longer than was comfortable before turning to Alex. "My daughter cares for you a great deal Alex….perhaps even loves you. As a mother, I will always worry about her possibly being hurt. But I know that you are an honorable woman Shepard, and I am aware that the three of you had a chance to discuss your unique situation and have taken measures to prevent anyone from being unduly hurt. You have also wisely chosen to give yourselves time to adjust to your new situation as well as allow yourselves some time to heal further- both physically and emotionally. I can find no reason to argue with your actions thus far. Ashley is a grown woman who has sacrificed much on our behalf. She is happy with you and Liara and far be it from me to deny her what little of that she can enjoy these days. You do not need my approval Commander, but I wish the three of you nothing but the best and would welcome you both into our family willingly."

Alex felt tears sting her eyes as her throat tightened and looked away quickly, overwhelmed by the offer to be a part of someone's family for the first time in her life. Ruth laid a gentle and understanding hand on her shoulder, but said nothing more. Alex finally managed to clear her throat enough to whisper a hoarse 'thank you'.

The hand squeezed her shoulder one last time before slipping away. "No, Alex….thank YOU." With that, the older woman wandered off back towards the house, knowing that Alex would need some time alone. As soon Ruth was out of earshot, Alex let loose the strangled sob of relief and…something else that she couldn't quite identify. She sat heavily in the sand, her breathing coming in harsh ragged pants as something else inside her broke loose and was finally allowed a chance to breathe. It was an emotion so complex, that Alex couldn't identify it and didn't even try. All she knew was that it was like another bandage over the wounded thing that her heart had become, had been ripped off, exposing something she'd been trying to keep hidden away for so many years. After awhile though, the pain subsided, and this time as Ruth's words replayed in her mind, it was the balm to soothe the old wounds in her heart and soul.

Ashley watched from her seat on the back deck as her mother approached alone and gazed out across the quickly darkening shoreline, spotting Alex sitting in the sand alone, her arms wrapped tightly around herself. She struggled to her feet, concerned. "Mom?"

Ruth merely smiled warmly at her eldest child. "She will be fine dear."

"That doesn't look like fine to me," Ash said hesitantly.

"New wounds are the freshest, but old wounds run the deepest and most people have an incredible knack for burying their pain so far down that they actually forget they are there. Alex just needs some time to cope with all that she has been denied in her life, and to realize all that she can gain back if she allows herself the chance."


"Love, happiness, and family for starters," Ruth said, cupping her daughter's cheek. "Regulations be damned, they are both a good match for you sweetheart. I hope none of you waste this chance to simply enjoy your lives and be happy."

Ashley wrapped her mother in a tight embrace, tears in her eyes as she buried her face into the older woman's shoulder. "Thank you so much….for everything. I wish you didn't have to go. I miss you guys so much."

"I know sweetie. And we miss you fiercely too. But I think it'll be good for you three to have some time to yourselves. I have a feeling we would all be underfoot soon enough anyway," her mother chuckled as she drew back and gave her daughter a teasing grin.

Ashley laughed quietly, happy that the darkness was hiding the blush that was sure to coloring her face. Then she looked back out towards the beach. "Go on. She probably won't mind the companionship. It'll help her focus on the future and not her past."

Ashley hugged her mom one last time and then carefully made her way towards Alex. Sarah came up next to her mom and watched her older sister sit in the sand next to Alex and wrap an arm around the Commander. "She's really got it bad for them doesn't she?"

"Very much so. And they return her feeling with as much intensity."

Sarah looked at her mom, frowning at the strange tone in her mother's voice. "I thought you were okay with them."

Ruth sighed. "I am more than fine with their relationship. I just fear for them….all of them. Ashley and Shepard are soldiers about to head back out onto the frontlines in preparation for war. Liara is now a warrior in her own right and will be joining them in their fight. But they have all suffered horrific losses already and sacrificed much in their hearts along their difficult journey. I fear what will happen if even just one of them falls in the upcoming battle."

Sarah was silent for a long time, not wanting to think of the possibility. "They have something truly amazing and they watch each other's backs like no one else. If they can live through the Citadel Battle, they can make it through anything."

"I can only hope dear." But deep down, Ruth had an unsettling feeling in her gut. She was happy for the three young women, and happier still that her daughter had finally found someone to share her life with. But she felt like something dark and terrible was on the horizon, and it frightened her.

They young pilot that had become their personal chauffer arrived on time the next morning and collected the entire group to head over to Sydney. Sarah sat up front, shamelessly flirting with him much to everyone else's amusement, and even secured his personal comm number by the end of the trip. He politely waited by the shuttle, as the women all tried not to have too emotional of a farewell. Once Ashley's family were on their way to their transport back home, the remaining three women headed over to Medical for their weekly check-up.

Liara was praised for her efforts, which had resulted in excellent progress in the two soldiers. Ashley was now able to take most of her weight on her leg and was allowed to progress to some strength training. She would most likely be allowed to resume some light impact exercise by the following week if all went well. It was clear that she was relieved to not have to use her crutches any more and was looking forward to being allowed to do more on the leg.

Alex's progress was still a little slower due to the severity and extensiveness of the damage to her arm, but she had finally managed to regain fine motor control over her arm and hand, being able to touch all of her fingers together and form a complete fist. They would progress her into the resistance training stage to help begin rebuilding some of the muscle tone that had been lost during her rehabilitation. If her shoulder didn't act up, they would allow strength training next week. It was clear that it would still be another month before they would probably clear her for full duty however. Alex was frustrated with the slow progress, but she knew that if she pushed it this time, she could end up doing irreparable damage that could bench her permanently.

They decided to enjoy the rest of their afternoon in Sydney, and their pilot was more than happy to act as their tour guide, showing them some of the popular local sights and highlights. He recommended a restaurant that he thought they would enjoy and they happily took him up on it- insisting that he join them.

"Commander, I am extremely honored, but it would be unprofessional of me," he tried to argue.

"I know. But if that battle taught me one thing Todd, its that there are some opportunities in your life that you just shouldn't pass up. Now, you have just been invited to dine with three Heroes of the Citadel Battle, don't be a stick in the mud. Besides, it'll be good for your business. Someone is bound to take pictures and your face will be seen and they'll wonder who you are. Since you refuse to take my money, at least let me help endorse your company."

He laughed then and held up his hands in surrender. "All right, all right. And you're right, I would be a fool to pass up this opportunity. But not just because your heroes…but because I would be passing up the opportunity to dine with three lovely ladies."

Ashley laughed at that. "Better not let my baby sister hear that!"

He blushed. "She was pretty….forward."

"Aggression seems to be a family trait of theirs," Shepard smirked. "Ashley here channels hers into fighting. Abby and Lynn are dedicated to their schooling, and Sarah…"

"Sarah is bound and determined to find herself a nice guy to settle down with. She's the romantic of the bunch," Ash remarked, still chuckling.

"Well no offense Chief Williams, but I don't know about dating someone whose older sister could kick my ass using just her pinky," he grinned.

This caused all three women to laugh heartily. Shepard shoved Williams gently, mindful of both their healing injuries. "Told you that you were scaring off her love interests."

"Fuck you," Ash grinned, shaking her head. "Like that girl has EVER been lacking in boyfriends. But just so you know Todd, there was only one time that I was about to intervene because she had this boyfriend that started to get physical. I went with her when she went to set him straight and the second he laid a hand on her, she put him down on the ground and let him know what was what. I didn't have to do a thing. My baby sister can take care of herself, so I've stayed out of her private life."

"I don't know if that really reassures me," Todd said quirking his eyebrow, much to their amusement.

Dinner ended up being a wonderful experience for all four. The restaurant apparently catered to the locals, and was low-key enough not to draw too much attention to themselves, even though a few people did obviously recognize who they were. The food was incredible, the music fun and lively, and the atmosphere relaxed and pleasant. The owner refused to let them pay, and a couple of people asked for their pictures and autographs, but not until they were through with their meals and getting ready to leave. It was a bit embarrassing for the women, but they were thankful that their 'fans' had allowed them the chance to enjoy their dinner without interruption.

Once Todd had decided to loosen up and enjoy the evening, he found the company of the three women a great deal of fun. The Commander was nothing like any of the other military types he'd met before. She was a bit of a rebel it seemed, and he laughed as Ashley and Liara related a few of Shepard's antics while chasing Saren all over the galaxy. He'd never really had a chance to meet an Asari before, so he was thoroughly pleased that he got a chance to find out more about their culture as well as get to know the lovely Dr. T'Soni. He'd also found Chief Williams interesting. She was more of the typical soldier, but her story was interesting and he had to admire her determination to stick with the Alliance after being held back for so long. The amazing thing was how well educated she was in literary classics. He suspected Sarah wasn't the only romantic in the family.

Watching the three women interact was another treat all in itself. When he'd first dropped them off at the Commander's home, he could see the toll their fight had taken on them- both emotionally and physically- but had sensed that there might have been something deeper there than just comrades in arms or battle buddies taking a much needed vacation. Last week, they'd appeared more rested, and their injuries were of course on the mend, but there was an underlying tension between them. Here and now, all that tension was gone. They laughed more freely. They shared casual touches or glances, that spoke of a comfortable intimacy. Most importantly though, when they smiled, the smile was reflected in their eyes. He could still see that some of their mission still lingered with them- and after what he'd seen on the extra-net he didn't doubt that fight would take awhile to heal from- but the haunted, weary look was finally gone. He knew they had all sacrificed much to protect everyone's way of life and existence- probably more than anyone would ever know. It made him immeasurably pleased that they had managed to find some peace within themselves and with each other.

Once they finished up, they all piled back into his personal transport and he took them back to Shepard's home. They continued their easy conversation during the hour long trip, asking him questions about his life and how he'd gotten started in his business. He was happy to answer their questions, including Chief Williams more personal ones. He grinned to himself, knowing that despite her claim to stay out of her little sister's private life, the Chief obviously couldn't help checking up on someone who might be a potential love interest. After getting to know them better though, he honestly didn't mind. Sarah was young, but there was something deeper under the surface there that had caught his attentions, and he was seriously contemplating checking in with her once she got home. What was most appealing to the potential situation was that he'd already met her family, and they all seemed to like him well enough. One less thing to worry about.

Night had well settled over the island once they arrived, and after a long full day, the three women were ready to call it a night. Todd bid them all goodnight, refused Shepard's offer of payment, and then assured them he would be back at the same time next week. They waved at him as he lifted off and Shepard grinned over at Ashley. "I think that kid would make a nice brother-in-law."

Ashley groaned and shoved Shepard gently. "Please stop trying to marry my baby sister off. The girl needs no help at all."

"Well at least she's set her sights on someone who seems to be mature enough to have his life figured out. And he's a decent guy…who will probably be raking in the cash within a year or two."

"That boy is doomed," Ashley laughed. "No one can resist my sister in full charm mode, and this time I think she's really got her sights locked in. Not that I blame her, mind you. I totally agree that he seems like a nice guy who is defiantly on the right track to an honest and lucrative career. It's just a little scary thinking about the fact that my baby sister could be settling down soon. Where the hell did time go?"

"Our mission to stop Saren certainly made time go by quickly," Liara agreed. "I admit that I was not accustomed to life aboard a ship and one can easily lose track of time with the lack of natural light."

"Yeah and considering the pace we kept," Alex added shaking her head. "Seems like we lost almost an entire year." The blonde stopped by her food dispenser and ordered an ice cold bottle of beer and looked over inquiringly at Ash who grinned and nodded. Liara had tried a beer her first day, and had promptly made a face that had the two humans chuckling as she held the offending beverage away from her in disgust.

Shepard was just about to settle on the couch for a little while when she noticed that her comm light was blinking at her that a message had come in while they were gone. With a sigh she went over to the panel and typed in her security code.

"Who has the balls to bug you on your vacation?" Ashley asked from where she was sprawled across the other couch.

Alex looked at the ID code and frowned a bit. "Hackett….damn it he had better not be recalling us. The Docs won't release either of us to full duty for at least another month, three weeks if we push it. And I'm not going back out there in a ship that's been thrown back together," she grumbled as she stabbed at the recall button.

A few moments later she was patched through to Hackett's aide. "This is Commander Shepard. The Admiral called while I was out and asked for me to return his call."

"Ah yes. Just one moment Commander, Admiral Hackett was expecting your call. I'll patch you through."

Seconds later Hackett's face popped up on the screen. "Commander," he greeted.


"Sorry for disturbing you on your much deserved Leave, but I needed to pass some information along to you."

Shepard sighed. "Lay it on me Admiral," she said, her heart sinking into her stomach.

He chuckled quietly. "I see your enjoying your Leave," he remarked, easily noting Shepard bracing herself for bad news.

"Enough that I would really like to enjoy the full time that was due to my crew and myself," she responded flatly.

"Well not to worry Shepard, I'm not about to ruin it with bad news. But now that the Council races have managed to finally get more of their fleets to the Citadel, our ships were finally able to come limping home as well and the Station Master is up to his neck in ship repairs. Normandy is on our high priority list, but the Roosevelt just docked, and as a battle cruiser you know that will take precedence over anything else. Thankfully her damage wasn't too extensive, and they've been making repairs on the fly already. But Command feels we should divert most of our resources to getting her back into fighting shape first."

"How long do you think our repairs will be set back?"

"Station Master feels a week, two at the most. You know things never go as expected, so I'm giving you at least one week more on Leave, but be prepared for it to be extended to two. Besides, I had a look at your Medical Reports from earlier and while you are both healing nicely, you and the Chief won't be in fighting shape before then anyway. So call your Crew Chiefs and let them know to pass the word down that your Leave has been extended a full week for now. I would give the two weeks, but if your girl is ready, I'd rather have you use the time to put her through a shake-down run that won't require any fighting."

"Understood Admiral. I'll call my people tomorrow."

"Good. So, now that business is out of the way, how are you enjoying that little island of yours?"

"If I it weren't for the fact that I know I'd go stir crazy not being in the middle of things, I could easily retire here right now," Shepard smirked as she sipped on her beer.

Hackett laughed. "Glad to here it kid. You look good." His eyes slid past her to nod in the direction of Ashley and Liara. "Ladies," he greeted with a pleasant smile before he looked back at Shepard. "You all look much better. You be sure to keep minding the good Doctor T'Soni there and keep up the progress with your recovery. I'll call you as soon as I hear back from the Station Master."

"Aye aye, Admiral. Have a good evening Sir."

Hackett tipped his head, a smirk not quite showing in his eyes and lips. "You as well Commander. Hackett out."

"Our vacation has been extended?" Liara asked with a pleased look on her features.

Alex grinned. "By a week at least, possibly more," she confirmed with a grin of her own. "Give me a minute ladies, I'd rather take care of this now than to be bothered with having to remember this tomorrow," she said turning back to her comm unit and punching in Pressley's number. Thankfully, she got his message box and left a brief message apologizing for disturbing him on his Leave but relayed their orders and asked him to relay it to the Department Heads so they could inform their own people. She would get back to him when she knew more.

With that done, she headed back to the living area to reclaim her beer and crawl back onto the loveseat. Relaxing back into the soft cushions, she sighed contentedly after taking a long pull from her beer. They sat in silence for awhile, enjoying the peace and warm company. "Did you really mean what you said to the Admiral?" Ashley asked after awhile.

"About retiring here?"


Alex let her gaze to the large bay windows that clearly showed the moonlight ocean outside a blanket of stars hanging overhead. "You know my whole life has been spent surviving from one battle to the next. When I was younger and I would see normal people with their normal lives, I couldn't ever imagine myself in their situation. I had gotten so used to the thrill and challenge of the fight, that I thought living like that would be so boring," she admit with a wry chuckle.

"But now….now I look at what I've missing out on, and I could easily see having at least a little of that for myself. This mission made me look hard at my life and while I'm proud of everything I've accomplished and I know that I could have only seen us through this because of my past, I'm…tired," Alex admitted quietly. She noted in the back of her mind that both women were listening intently to her now, but she continued on. "My whole life has been about giving everything I am to someone else….the gangs, the Alliance, the Council. I have sacrificed so much for all of them, and only just now have something to even show for it. I'll see this mission through to it's end, because the Reapers HAVE to be stopped and it seems I'm really the only one who is willing to acknowledge their existence. But when this is done, and the Reaper threat is over, I'm through," she said decidedly.

"Got any plans for then?"

Alex shrugged and finished the last of her beer. "For the time being, retiring here seems like a good plan. I finally have someplace to call home, and that's good enough for me. The rest I can figure out when I have all the time in the world to decide what I want to do with my life afterwards. What about you Ash?"

"Honestly? I don't really know Alex," she admitted with a sigh as she looked down into her bottle. "I've always been so focused on being a career Marine, and figured I'd probably die in the line of duty some day. Never planned for much in the future because tomorrow's battle could be my last. But now?" she paused and looked up between Alex and Liara. "Now I have a lot more to live for, and I've started to re-evaluate my priorities as well," she finished quietly.

Alex smiled warmly at her. "C'mere," she breathed.

Leaving her empty bottle on the coffee table, Ash moved over to curl up next to Alex who wrapped an arm around her. "Scary thinking about the future isn't it?" she asked knowingly.

"It's simpler to just have to worry about yourself and getting through the next day," Ash acknowledge quietly, feeling for the first time that someone truly understood her.

Liara, who was being the giving the gift of getting to know and understand yet another deeper facet of her two lovers' personalities, sat quietly and observed the interaction with a tender expression in her eyes. She had never been a very social person growing up and until this past year, her interactions with others had been limited, but she had seen soldiers of all kinds over the past century , and one thing had always struck her about the dedicated kind- they were extremely controlled people. You could always sense the fire of passion burning just beneath the surface, but they had honed that passion into weapon- only to be used in the heat of battle. She was finally beginning to understand that the thought of using that passion for anything else was far more terrifying than overwhelming odds on the battlefield.

Alex pressed a kiss against Ashley's temple, understand her dilemma all to well herself. "I hear you Ash. It's why I decided I'm not going to think too hard about the future. I know what I want for myself, but who knows? An all out war could start and maybe we won't be good enough to stop them. Our lives have too many variables to plan for anything specific, and we can't afford to be distracted. So I say we take your advice and enjoy what we have, while we have it and if we find ourselves alive on the other side of this upcoming fight, then we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Ashley turned to look at Alex with a beautiful smile on her face. "I like that idea Skipper."

"Good. Now, I've been waiting to do this all day," Alex murmured as she leaned forward and pressed her lips against Ashley's.

Ashley's lips were full and soft and Alex sighed into the tender kiss as she felt her body relax into the embrace. Her tongue moved to gently explore that softness, Ash reciprocating the gesture moments later. The feel and taste of Ashley as their kiss quickly deepened, ignited the desire and passion they had been keeping in check for the last several days. From her own seat, Liara gasped quietly as she both felt and saw the change in their aura's. Arousal coursed through her own veins as she watched her two soon to be lovers sink back into the couch until Alex was covering Ashley with her own body, their hands beginning to wander restlessly along each other's bodies. She desperately wanted to join them, but she knew they needed this and it allowed her another moment to observe and learn.

The young maiden watched as Alex began to trail wet kisses along Ashley's jaw down to her neck and nipped at a spot just below Ashley's ear that caused the brunette to gasp and expose more of her neck. She noted how Ashley's strong hands traced a trail up Alex's back to her neck and scratched gently against her scalp causing the Commander to swear softly into Ashley's neck. She saw how they enjoyed the small subtle play for domination, their bodies beginning to slow grind against each other as they succumbed to the need that had been burning just beneath the surface for weeks now. It was beautiful, intimate and highly erotic.

Alex felt Ashley's hands finally slid up under her shirt and groaned loudly with the contact of skin and nails along her spine. The noise was finally enough to startle her slightly out of the fog of desire that had settled over her, and she pulled back, trying to catch her breath as she opened her eyes and stared down at Ashley. Her Chief finally opened her eyes, the irises relegated to thin bands of chestnut encircling widened pupils filled with an equal amount of arousal. Alex felt her hands tighten involuntarily where they gripped the brunette, and Ashley responded with a bodily shiver and a soft exhalation. Then they both turned to where Liara sat, and were surprised by the hungry expression on her face as she carefully watched them. She looked almost as out of breath as they were.

Alex swallowed hard and finally managed to find her voice. "Bedroom?" she panted.

Liara stood swiftly and approached them both a sultry smile on her lips that neither of the other women had ever observed on her lips before. "I believe that is an excellent suggestion," Liara commented in a husky tone that sent shivers through the two humans before she knelt down to share in lingering wet kisses with her lovers.

It was with some reluctance they parted and Liara moved back so the two soldiers could stand on unsteady legs before she moved towards the bedroom. As Ashley moved to eagerly follow, Alex grabbed her hand stilling her for a moment. "Ash…Liara…she's never…" she began in a bare whisper, concern suddenly in her eyes.

"Been with anyone," Ashley answered back equally as quiet as she squeezed Alex's hand reassuringly. "I know Alex. And I want to make this as special for her as you do."

Alex smiled warmly at Ash and then leaned in for one last exchange before they both trailed after Liara, their bodies thrumming in anticipation for what they were about to experience.


Chapter 12: Gravity of Love

No sooner had Alex and Ash walked into her darkened room, both were grabbed by the fronts of

their shirts and held fast by both a strong physical and biotic grip as Liara kissed them each fiercely. Then just as suddenly as she had captured them, she released them and took several steps backward as they panted hard and stared at her with hungry eyes. Liara heard her own breath coming in quick gasps as her blood pounded through her body at an incredible rate. Her senses were on overdrive, and she could feel her biotics tingle through her mind and body, driving her to complete the union.

"Do you both understand what Joining with me involves?" she forced herself to ask.

Alex looked over at Ash who nodded and then back at Liara. "We do."

A slow and sensual smile spread across her moonlit features. "Then why are you both still standing in the doorway staring at me?" she asked coyly as her hands drifted up to the top button of the shirt she was wearing.

Those words were enough to dissipate any notions of hesitancy any of them might have been feeling. They wanted this…needed it. Desire and passion resurfaced in all three and Ashley and Alex quickly closed in on Liara pushing her back onto the bed as their bodies pressed into each other and their mouths sought out feverish skin.

All doubts that had still lingered within Alex fled at the sight of that look on Liara's shadowed face and at the tone she used on her Ash as she gave them tacit approval to proceed. It also triggered something deep within her that she'd been keeping at bay for….forever. A need and hunger rose in her that changed the color of her aura so sharply it caused Liara to gasp even as Alex closed in on her and claimed her in a deep kiss and pushed her back onto the bed.

Ash followed them both down, her body slowly grinding up against Alex even as her hands begin to deftly work at the fastenings to Alex's shirt while she nibbled along the back of her lover's neck. "Fuck," Alex growled into her kiss with Liara as Ash found a particularly sensitive spot and nipped it lightly after hearing the Spectre's oath. Then she laved the spot with her tongue and felt Alex shiver beneath her and grind instinctively into Liara who gasped in shocked pleasure.

Ashley chuckled huskily into Alex's neck, and then moved down further to capture Liara's mouth for another slow, wet kiss even as her fingers finally parted Alex's shirt enough to slip a hand inside to freely explore full soft flesh. Alex groaned as strong fingers strummed across needful flesh slowly teasing it into further stiffness.

"Ash!" she cried out when the brunette added a slight tweaking motion that expertly threaded the line of pleasure and pain. Suddenly Ashley was pulling back, pulling Alex with her as they knelt straddling Liara, while Ashley ripped Alex's shirt wide open, exposing the blonde's torso to Liara's now hungry gaze.

Ashley held Alex from behind, kissing and licking her way down a slender neck along the top of a shoulder still marked by recent surgery scars that were just beginning to fade. Not one to ever pass up an opportunity to explore and discover, Liara reached both hands upwards to skim along the front of Alex's body, marveling at the difference between the lean, hard planes of strong abs, and then up to cup the full soft weight of Alex's breasts. Her hands brushed along Ashley's, enhancing the pleasure they were now both giving Alex, and Liara reveled in the soft noises that were coming from the normally controlled Commander. Blue eyes shifted past Alex's heaving chest and tracked slowly upwards to meet the dark brown of Ashley's smoldering gaze. She watched as the darker woman left her mark on paler flesh, and then grin wickedly down at Liara as her eyes slid briefly to the woman that was writhing against both of them.

Liara was all to happy to comply with the unspoken decision as she wished to learn more about her lovers and how she could elicit even more of the erotic vocalizations that were filling the moonlit bedroom. On an impulsive whim, Liara's biotics flared, filling the room with it's brilliant blue glow briefly as she applied it in a manner that she'd never used before. What was left of Alex's clothing was quickly rent in half and flung into the darker corners, leaving the blonde completely bare.

Alex gasped as she felt the biotics wrap around her briefly and then was left stunned as the remainder of her clothes were ripped from her body. She shuddered in excitement at the display of such power, and absently wondered what else Liara could do with her biotics. Ashley had moved to her other shoulder, her hands and Liara's still pulling noises and sensations from her body that Alex had never experienced before. This was so far beyond any of the quick one night stands that she had dabbled in on those rare occasions that she'd felt like indulging in her body's desires. She was so far gone on the pleasure high they were creating that she couldn't even protest that she was the only one undressed.

Ashley, despite her focus on Alex, wasn't immune to the whole eroticism of the moment and she needed to feel more of Alex's skin against her. She left Liara to the enjoyable task of keeping Alex distracted with strong skilled fingers while she stripped out of her own shirt and bra and then pressed her body back up against Alex's. Hot skin that was beginning to slick with sweat gently scraped against Ashley's sensitive nipples and caused the darker woman to groan in need as her mouth sought out her lover's jaw.

Liara watched as Ashley began shedding some of her own clothes and gladly took advantage of having Alex to herself for a little while, her fingers continuing their play for a moment longer before her hands began trailing all along the bare flesh that was now exposed to her. She started stroking slowly lower along her lover's sides and ribs, back over the well defined abs, and then over the gentle swell of Alex's hips and down the outside over her thighs. As her hands drifted lower, so did her gaze and it settled between the legs that were straddling her body. She could feel the moisture that was now soaking through her shirt and damping her own stomach, and could easily smell Alex's arousal, a scent that was driving her own desire higher.

Slowly, far too slowly for Alex, her hands began to track back up those spread thighs, her thumbs skimming along the insides as she watched Alex lean back into Ashley and tense in anticipation. Ashley had Alex wrapped in her strong embrace once more and was planting loving kisses along the blonde's jaw, her hands picking up where Liara's had left off. Aware of Liara's own explorations, she guided Alex up higher onto her knees, and then leaned them both back a bit more allowing their inexperienced lover the chance to explore more freely. Liara gave her a beautiful smile that made Ashley's heart beat harder and she pulled Alex's head around for a long and deep kiss.

Alex was completely lost in the world of burning desire that her two lovers had awakened within her. She couldn't catch her breath, her heart felt like it was about to pound out of her chest, her body was covered in a fine sheen of sweat and every nerve ending was sensitized to their touches. She could feel and smell her own arousal, heard the noises they were dragging from her, and it all served to ratchet her need even higher. When Liara began the slow torturous journey towards where she needed her most, she gladly accepted Ashley's shifting of their bodies along with the searing kiss that quickly followed. Then finally….finally she felt the lightest of touches along the juncture of her thighs and whimpered into the kiss as her hips moved of their own accord in an attempt to deepen that touch. Strong fingers dug into her hips, and Alex broke off the kiss to gasp Liara's name and finally look down into her lover's eyes.

Ashley looked down as well, and her hands tightened their hold convulsively as she saw that the young Asari was faintly glowing blue, and her eyes were nearly black. When she whispered 'Ebrace Eternity!' to them, something shifted between them and Ashley was a part of something so intense and beautiful she knew this was home. Old wounds were closed, fears were assuaged, and nightmares chased away as a burgeoning love was exposed and explored. Words were no longer needed as thoughts, desires and need were clearly communicated between each of them and the time for teasing Alex passed as her need became their own.

All three cried out in joy as Liara's long fingers sank into warm, wet, and receptive flesh and Ashley added her own firm touches in all the right places. When Liara sat up so that she could suckle on what her fingers had only teased before, a lightening bolt of pleasure ran through all three of them. Another shocked through them when Alex slid her hand up the back of her Asari's neck and skimmed along the edges of Liara's crest, exposing an apparent Asari erogenous zone. Another flare of biotics and all clothes were disposed of as the three women began to move and writhe against each other focused only on bringing their combined pleasure higher. The journey didn't last long however, because all three were too caught up in Alex's already heightened arousal. When they finally crested, it was with a combined scream of release, before they collapsed in a shaking heap as aftershocks of intense pleasure continued to rock both their minds and bodies for long minutes afterwards. Finally, the rapport of their Joining slowly released it's hold on them, and in its wake a deep lassitude settled in carrying all three away into a sweet oblivion.

It was still early morning when Alex finally began to stir. She was immediately aware of the feeling of two soft and naked bodies pressed against her, and memories of the previous evening's sweet loving surfaced, bringing a smile to her lips even as her body began to respond to those memories. A gentle kiss was placed against her lips and she opened her eyes to see Ashley leaning back into her pillow a warm look in her eyes.

"Mornin' Skipper," she whispered quietly with a rakish grin on her lips.

From the soft snores coming from behind her, Alex easily deduced that Liara was still asleep, a fact that wasn't unexpected since Liara was the focus mind for their Union. Alex smirked back at her darker lover. "Chief," she whispered back. "You didn't play fair last night if memory serves. Ganging up on me like that," she said, raising her eyebrow in mock severity.

Ashley's grin widened and her eyes twinkled mischievously. "I'll take whatever advantage I can against you Alex. Besides, I could see the scientist in Liara rearing it's beautiful head and figured she'd enjoy being the one in control for her first time. I know I certainly appreciated it my first time."

Alex rolled them quickly over so that she was pinning her Chief down to the bed as her smirk returned in full force. "Well you know what they say….turn about is only fair play," she murmured before she leaned in to mark Ash in the same spot that she'd been marked the previous night.

Ashley gasped as quietly as possible and then tried to suppress a giggle as Alex's mouth began to wander. "Alex! Liara's still asleep," she protested quietly.

"Mmmmhmmm. I think we wore the good doctor out last night," Alex murmured smugly against her neck. "I don't think she would mind if we enjoyed each other until she wakes up though," she added before sucking on a sensitive spot on Ashley's neck. A sharp inhalation was all the encouragement Alex needed to continue mapping the tan skin beneath her with lips, tongue and hands.

It took every ounce of Ashley's willpower to keep from crying out as Alex slid down her body and began teasing her nipples to further stiffness with teeth and tongue. As it was, her breathing was coming out in harsh pants as she arched her back up into Alex, one hand threading in short blonde hair while the other twisted into the bed sheets. Alex looked up from where she was enjoying teasing her lover and took in the look of completely ecstasy and need, and felt a sense of satisfaction thrill through her. She surged upwards capturing Ashley's mouth in a hungry kiss, their tongues dueling for control and ground herself against Ash causing both of them to moan softly.

For the next several minutes they remained locked in the heated kiss as they thrust slowly against each other, their arousal evident in wet slick flesh that ground into each other as the soft sounds and smells of their loving filled the room once more. But Alex wanted more and she finally broke free of the kiss drawing air into her lungs before she began sliding back down Ashley's body, planting wet, open mouthed kisses along the way. She would pause occasionally as she found new hot spots and relished in making Ashley writhe and clutch at the sheets. Her kisses finally led to hips that jogged upwards as she began tracing teasing circles inward with her tongue.

"Alex!" Ashley gasped out in frustration.

"Shhhhh. Liara's still asleep remember?" Alex whispered back quietly as she lifted her head up to smirk at her Chief.

"Liara is no longer asleep, but she is very much enjoying how she woke up," a husky voice said from next to them.

They both looked over to see their Asari lover stretched out very much awake and obviously enjoying what she was watching. She smirked playfully at them. "By all means, do continue."

Alex smirked back at her. "Hope you like what you see, because you're next," she promised in a sultry voice. Then she turned her attention back to Ashley and focused back on the goal in front of her. Neatly trimmed dark hair did little to hide the evidence of Ashley's arousal and her heady scent filled Alex's nostrils at this close range.

"Please," Ashley begged out loud now, thankfully she no longer had to contain her passion.

Alex relented finally, and leaned in to run her tongue along the length of lover and tease the sensitive bundle of nerves gently. Ashley cried out, her hips grinding further into Alex. The blonde was not prepared for the sharp spike in her own arousal as she began loving Ashley in earnest, and her world narrowed to the whimpers and cries of Ashley and the taste and smell of her lover as she delved deeper with her tongue for more of the addictive nectar. Despite the ache in her shoulder, she slid her arms under Ashley's thighs to wrap around and firmly hold the Latin woman to her as she brought her closer to the edge. That moment arrived only a few short minutes later with Ashley crying out her name as her whole body stiffened and then shuddered with an intense climax. Alex let her come down slowly from her release and looked over to see Liara watching them intently, one of her hands lightly dancing along her own skin in arousal. Wiping her chin, a feral grin lifted Alex's lips as she moved swiftly from the now limp form of Ashley to her Asari lover.

Liara was surprised by the explosion of flavor on her tongue as Alex kissed her deeply, sharing the lingering flavor of Ashley with her even as strong hands quickly began arousing the Asari. Liara was subjected to the same teasing loving that Ashley had experienced, and quickly found her self so off balance she didn't think she could focus enough for a proper Joining. Alex paused at one point and smiled gently at her. "It's ok sweetheart. It doesn't have to be like last night every time….that would be too wearing on you. We humans enjoy good old fashioned loving just fine. So relax and enjoy," she told her tenderly as she placed gentle kisses along her brow.

And then Alex began exploring something she'd recalled from the previous evening but had been too distracted to pay proper attention to. Her hands slid up Liara's neck and into the elegant fringes of her crest and watched as Liara's eyes rolled back in her head. The fringes, which were originally hard and almost bone-like in their design began softening under her touch the longer she paid attention to them and Alex watched in fascination as they unfolded ever so slightly. Moving upwards so she could have a better view she continued her tactile explorations, reveling in Liara's steady stream of whimpers. When Alex leaned in to begin kissing and sucking lightly on their edges she was rewarded with the whimpers turning into a sharp gasp of pleasure as Liara's fingers dug into Alex's hips. From her new vantage point Alex could see a patch of skin that was now exposed on the Asari's skull, it's coloring a deep indigo. Intrigued, Alex gently ran the tip of her finger against the almost velvet like skin.

Liara's eyes opened wide as her whole body jerked with intense pleasure. "Goddess!" she cried out sharply and Alex jerked her hand back, afraid that she'd just hurt her lover. "No!" Liara panted as she grasped Alex's hand and guided it back up to her crest.

"I didn't hurt you?" Alex asked, concern still in her eyes.

"Goddess no!" Liara panted. She wanted to explain more, but words were currently failing her.

Hesitantly, Alex lightly repeated her previous touch and watched as Liara shuddered and groaned deeply as her head titled to give Alex better access.

"Looks like you just found an Asari G-Spot," Ashley chuckled from where she was watching and recovering.

Well I'll be damned, Alex thought to herself with a grin as she rubbed the spot a bit harder and was rewarded with another cry. Fully curious now, Alex shifted up further and leaned down to run her tongue across the indigo patch that drug another cry from Liara. Grinning, Alex leaned back in and began licking firmly at that soft spot, feeling her thighs grow slick from her own arousal at hearing Liara's cries and pleas for more.

Ashley felt her own arousal return as she watched Alex pleasure their Asari lover and from this angle could see the effect it was having on their intrepid Commander. Having finally recovered from her stunning release earlier, Ashley shifted until she was straddling Liara's thigh and had access to both her lovers. She knew Liara was aware of her presence because that soft thigh moved to press against her damp center, dragging a soft moan of appreciation from Ashley. Her hand splayed across soft blue skin and Liara's legs parted instinctively granting Ashley free access, which she quickly took advantage of. Her other hand reached out and slid up Alex's leg, and the blonde broke off her attentions for a moment as the sensation broke through her focus. Ash continued up higher until there too, she was allowed entry.

Instinct took over and they set up a pace and rhythm that gradually increased in speed, depth and firmness until all three were panting and grinding desperately against each other. Liara was the first to peak, and her howl of release as she came hard, sent such a rush of pleasure through the other two that they quickly followed her into the blinding joy of release. Trembling, exhausted and completely sated, they curled against each other and succumbed to another blissfully deep slumber.

Part 13

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