"Tali, is it just me or have people been staring at me?"
Her friend looked over at her, a tilt of her head showing the confusion that her masked eyes couldn't. "What do you mean?"
As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Shepard couldn't help but feel a bit dumb for having said it. The two had decided to go shopping together during the Normandy's temporary docking at the Citadel (after all, one could never have enough weapon and omni upgrades), and as they had made their way through the crowded walkways of the Presidium, Shepard hadn't been able to shake the feeling that heads were turning in her direction. Now, Shepard was in no position to deny any accusation of being paranoid. She'd sooner take the statement as a compliment than try and defend herself against it. Suspicion came to her like fighting came to a krogan. That was just who she was.
But sitting now on one of the Presidium's benches as they were, her single personal purchase of the day resting between herself and her quarian companion, Shepard was positive the two asari sitting at a table over by Apollo's Cafe were laughing at her.
"Look," she said, giving a small jerk of her arm in the direction of the pair before leaning back against the bench. She turned her own eyes away, letting them rest on the back of a salarian while Tali turned to see for herself, not wanting to draw attention to the fact that she had noticed their snickering. "Either I'm going crazy or I suddenly turned hilarious. I swear that shit's been happening all day."
"Well you are crazy," Tali agreed, and Shepard looked at her as her friend turned back around. "But I agree, they do seem to be giggling away about something."
Before Shepard could question what that something could possibly be, Tali's hand was on her forehead, pushing her head back rather uncomfortably. "Nothing in your nose." Her hands moved to Shepard's cheeks, pushing her face into an awkward smile. "Nothing in your teeth." The quarian's arms drew away with a shrug, and Shepard sat back with a thump against the bench.
"Thanks," she muttered drily, rubbing her jaw, but Tali was already standing.
"I've got no idea, Shepard," she said, crossing her arms. "They're asari. It's probably just some frivolous gossip. Al-Jilani hasn't exactly painted the prettiest picture of you."
"Well that's probably because I punched her right in her disingenuous mouth," Shepard said smugly, picking up the small bag next to her as she stood. Tali gave a small laugh as the two began walking.
"Or hey, maybe they just agree with me on the cargos."
Shepard tilted her head back with a groaning sigh. "Still with this? They're comfortable, okay?"
"Nobody needs that many pockets Shepard."
Shepard leaned in closer to her friend, speaking in a low tone of mock threat. "Fine. But when someone gets the jump on you in your pretty little environmental suit, don't come crying to the one who came prepared."
Tali patted her on the shoulder, much like a doctor might to a patient about to receive dismaying news. "Shep, they're ugly."
The quarian was in the elevator faster than Shepard could get in a playful swing, laughing while the human trailed after her with a smirk. A step outside, Shepard paused and gave one last glance behind her. One of the asari was looking in her direction, the other saying something in her ear that they both broke into laughter about a moment later.
A bit of heat colored Shepard's cheeks, and she shoved her free hand into her pocket and turned to follow Tali up to the docking bay.
"Got you somethin'."
Shepard tossed the book as she entered the room, following it onto the bed a second after it had landed next to Liara. She saw her look away from the datapad in her hand to see whatever it was that had been thrown at her before lying down in front of the asari and wrapping her arms around her waist, head resting comfortably in her lap.
Her greeting was returned with a soft chuckle and warm fingers running through her hair, and Shepard closed her eyes with a smile while Liara shifted to set down her work and pick up the book. "I know you've read just about everything to do with digging, but I don't think you have this one yet. If you do you've probably worn it down till the pages are falling out, so here's a new one."
"I actually do not have this one." She could hear the smile in her voice. "Thank you."
Thoroughly satisfied with the successful purchase, Shepard rolled onto her back and hummed peacefully as Liara caressed the hair falling against her forehead, listening to her skim the pages of the text. It was just another archeology book, the kind of which Liara must have had hundreds of already, but Shepard had seen her tear into enough of them to know she loved reading any new one she could get her hands on.
"Just don't stay up all night reading it," she said.
A soft laugh. "I won't." Shepard heard her close the book and set it aside, then felt the gentle warmth of Liara's hands against her cheeks. She opened her eyes to the blue ones looking down at her and smiled.
Liara returned the smile and leaned down, pressing her lips to Shepard's for a few long moments.
"Hello," she murmured and then pulled away, leaning back against her headboard. "So, Tali tells me you were getting quite a bit of attention today."
Shepard raised and eyebrow. "Oh did she?"
Liara brushed a strand of hair out of Shepard's face and tucked it behind her ear. "Well, more specifically she said 'Hey Liara, you better watch out for these other asari developing a taste for your girlfriend's terrible pants', but it held the same intention."
"First, the pants are fine." Shepard folded her arms across her chest. "Second, the pants and the girl wearing them don't care how much other asari want to snicker. They are perfectly happy where they are."
"I didn't question that for a second," Liara assured her. "Though I do believe this means there is something I should tell you..."
Shepard furrowed her eyebrows, concerned by the tone she had taken. "What is it?"
Liara appeared to be struggling for words, and Shepard pushed her elbows beneath her, ready to sit up and listen to whatever was wrong that could make her girlfriend suddenly so--
"Are you blushing?"
Her question served only to draw out an even darker shade of blue across the asari's freckled cheeks, and Liara's fingers tapped nervously against her leg.
"No." Well if that wasn't the most blatant lie ever. Shepard reached over and took Liara's fidgeting hand with her own, looking up at her with a small, questioning smile.
"Come on, what is it?"
Liara sighed and looked away, and there was no way to deny the blush covering her face now. Shepard gave her hand a gentle squeeze and a few seconds later Liara finally began to speak.
"As I'm sure you are aware, many people have an attraction to asari, regardless of their species or gender." Liara paused and glanced at her, and Shepard gave a nod to signal she followed before the other continued. "Though that is primarily through simple physical attraction, we do have something more...subtle, that we have evolved as our own species began reproducing more and more with those other species. Nothing strong enough to fake actual connections, but it does help give a bit of an edge to that physical attraction."
Shepard had never seen Liara blush this hard, and it only grew worse the more she spoke. "Well, what is it?"
Shepard blinked. "A pheromone?"
Liara nodded. "Just a temporary thing that happens automatically when we meld with another." She lowered her head, embarrassment clear on every inch of her. "Unless...we have one partner who we meld with frequently."
"So the reason asari were looking at me?"
"It's too subtle for most others to notice, but asari do. It's really not that uncommon for some of them to poke fun at someone who has..." Liara scratched at her cheek, biting nervously at her lower lip. "Who has uh." She cleared her throat and spoke the last part quieter. "Been 'claimed'."
Shepard continued looking at her, mind working a bit slower that it should to work through the information she was being given. Before she could come up with a response, Liara took a deep breath and finished her explanation.
"Put simply, I have more or less, ah..." Another deep breath, and the rest came out as she exhaled it. "Marked you as mine."
Silence fell after that, and Liara again ducked her head in embarrassment, a hand pressed to her own cheek as though that would hide her furious blushing.
Shepard sat up, turning to face her girlfriend and taking her face in her hands, waiting until Liara looked at her to speak.
"You should have just said so," she said, smiling at her. "I would have been flaunting it instead of glaring across the room because I thought they were making fun of my pants."
Liara placed her hands over Shepard's, expression still less than confident. "You don't mind?"
"Of course not." She leaned in and kissed her. "Why would I mind letting everyone know that I've been taken by Liara T'soni?"
That finally got her to smile. Shepard's own grin changed to a smirk as she moved forward, straddling Liara's lap and pressing her back against the headboard. Her lips trailed from the asari's jawline down to her neck, one hand moving behind her to rest between her shoulders.
Liara murmured her name, clearly not protesting the change in position. Her fingers laced through her hair.
"You know," Shepard whispered against Liara's neck, relishing the small shiver she felt run through her. "Humans have ways to mark what's theirs, too..."
A quiet gasp. "Show me." Shepard smiled and pressed her lips back to Liara's skin.