Relationship Counselling

(Here is a small bit of fanfiction I wrote the other night. It was originally posted at FF.net; here it is, complete with the formatting that FF ate. It’s quite short, about 900 words or so, and here is the entire thing, as it’s complete.)

Synposis: Post-Control ending, Liara has to deal with an awkward interpersonal situation. Sometimes decisions have consequences…

In big, white letters, the door said RELATIONSHIP COUNSELLING.

Dr. Liara T’soni looked at it and hesitated. She glanced behind her, at the corridor. A beige carpet and plain white walls, extending away to the elevator at the back – the inside of this building was a bland, institutional space. It had come through the Reaper War somehow untouched. Liara took a breath. The air smelt faintly of cleaning agents and paint. Somewhere in the distance some pipework chugged quietly to itself.

Liara raised her fist and rapped on the door, twice. The sound echoed hollowly in the corridor.

‘Come in,’ a muffled voice said from inside.

The door slid open with a quiet whoosh. Liara walked inside. The door shut behind her. She found herself in a space that was different from the corridor beyond. The room was richly-carpeted. Along the walls, a couple of small side-tables supported vases of flowers. Heavy drapes flanked a wide window, through which a square of lemony sunlight fell onto the floor. A couch and a chair were positioned along the left wall.

There was a man sat in the chair. He was smartly dressed, with a moustache and a balding head. He quickly stood up as she entered. ‘Dr. T’soni. Hello. I’m John Carmichael. Registered counsellor.’ The man pointed with pride at a certificate, framed and mounted on the wall.

He offered her his hand.

Liara nodded, shaking the hand. ‘Dr Carmichael. It’s good to meet you. Thank you for agreeing to see us – particularly at such short notice! Our last session … well it didn’t end so well, you know?’

‘Yes, of course – that happens sometimes! I hope I can be of more service.’ The counsellor appeared to notice something. ‘Uh, I believe you said there would be two of you for the session? It’s not a problem if there’s been a change, but-’

Liara shook her head. ‘No, it’s okay,’ she said. ‘There will be two of us. But my other half is-’ she glanced at her omni-tool ‘-running late. I suppose. But she does have a long way to come.’

‘Oh. Well maybe we can lay some of the groundwork first,’ Dr. Carmichael said. ‘If you’d like to take a seat, please feel free.’

Liara glanced out of the window. They were some way above ground; she could see the skyline of the half-reconstructed city outside. She saw lots of towers, many of them surrounded by scaffolding. War damage was evident everywhere; it was early days for the reconstruction. Above it all, the sky was partly cloudy and partly clear. The sun sat in splendid isolation, high in the sky.

The window was half-open; a breath of wind stirred the drapes.

Liara perched herself on the couch. She took a deep breath. The room smelt of flowers and the clean scent of the wind outside. She could hear faint noises rising from the city below, a faint growl of traffic and the occasional rumble of passing aircraft.

The counsellor settled himself onto the chair. ‘You said in your message that things had changed between you and your other half,’ he said. ‘Perhaps while we wait you could tell me how you feel about it.’

Liara nodded. ‘Of course,’ she said. ‘It’s – well, everything’s changed, you know?’

‘You said your other half was in the War,’ the counsellor said. ‘Was that related?’

Liara nodded vigorously. ‘Oh yes, definitely! In fact that was it – that was when she changed.’

There was a faint thrumming noise from outside. For a moment, a cloud or something passed across the sun. The room briefly darkened. Liara glanced at her omni-tool, frowning a little.

‘You said she changed,’ Dr Carmichael said. ‘But not changed back.’

‘Yes. Everything’s different now. She’s just got so … big. And so dramatic. And so hard to talk to, you know?’

‘That’s interesting.’

‘And there’ve been, you know, other difficulties. It’s a bit awkward. I hope you don’t mind me bringing them up. It’s the, uh, physical side of the relationship, if you see what I mean.’

‘Please tell me more.’

‘Well you see there are difficulties there too. In fact there hasn’t really been much of that at all, if you know what I mean. Since the beginning, in fact.’

‘That’s interesting. How did it start? Tell me as much as you can. ’

‘Well it – the problems – they began just after the Citadel,’ Liara said. ‘After it fired, I mean. She was involved in that. It kind of changed her.’

A shadow passed across the window. The square of light on the carpet was extinguished. The room was cast into shadow.

‘Your other half was there?’ Carmichael sounded astonished, professional distance briefly slipping.

‘Yes,’ Liara said. ‘In fact, I think she’s nearly here-’

Carmichael jumped up. ‘Damn these clouds,’ he said. ‘I’ll just go and put some lights on.’ He strode toward the switch on the far wall.

Liara stood, feeling a surge of alarm. ‘Doctor, I need to tell you what happened-’

The whole room shook and a loud thump echoed in from outside

Carmichael said, ‘Wait, that sounded like something landing-’

He glanced at the window, and froze. Sudden terror gripped his face.

The room flooded with a bright red light.

A deep, loud voice said, ‘SORRY LIARA – I’M LATE AGAIN!’

Carmichael’s eyes were wide and his jaw was wobbling up and down. He raised a shaky hand at the window. His face had gone pale and his eyes bulged out.

Liara looked at the shape beyond the window, then sat down, sighed and put her head in her hands.

‘HAVE I MISSED ANYTHING?’ It was a voice that you felt as well as heard. Vibrations rippled through the floor beneath their feet.

‘Oh Shepard,’ Liara said with resignation.

Carmichael’s face looked like nothing so much as an unexpectedly-beached fish, eyes glassy and mouth opening and closing. Pointing his trembling finger, he said, ‘R-Ree-Reaper!’

Then, quietly and without fuss, he collapsed in an abrupt faint.

‘WHAT IS THEIR PROBLEM? THAT’S THE THIRD ONE WHO’S KEELED OVER THIS WEEK! HONESTLY!’

‘I told you we should stick to extranet counselling services.’

‘BUT THEY DON’T HAVE THE PERSONAL TOUCH!’

‘Oh Shepard,’ Liara said. She glanced at Carmichael’s unconscious form. She said to the slumped body, ‘At least I managed to talk her out of bringing Harbinger this time.’

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