How BioWare Heavily Implies Liara Should Be Your Canon Romance

Liara T’Soni ranks among one of the top love interest preferences for Mass Effect players. Who wouldn’t love the asari right? They’re smart, powerful and attractive. Did we fall in love with Liara’s character on our own? Or did BioWare just give us a push by seducing us with content specifically made for one character? If true, what are their motives for doing so? 

Note to Reader: This article was originally published on Commander Bedlam with the same title on the date of March 28, 2012. Parts of this post were edited and expanded upon to include the author’s opinion on the DLCs which were released after this article was written with regards to Liara’s role. Thank you and enjoy the article!

Arguably, Liara T’Soni ranks among one of the top love interest preferences for Mass Effect players. Who doesn’t love the asari right? They’re smart, powerful and attractive. Did we fall in love with Liara’s character on our own? Or did BioWare just give us a push by seducing us with content specifically made for one character? If true, what were their motives for doing so?

When I first played the original Mass Effect, I explored each romantic option for Shepard to get the most out of the story. Early on in the trilogy, there is little bias present to indicate that BioWare favors Liara as a romantic conquest. Sure, there was the quest in Noveria with Matriarch Benezia that provided additional content and dialogue for Shepard and Liara but I thought nothing of it. The final romance scenes for Ashley, Kaidan, and Liara were fairly similar except for the fact that Liara’s was longer and featured more nudity.

In my opinion, the integral attractiveness of pursuing Liara’s character was the allure of an exotic inter-species romance. A tryst with an alien? That sounds like the ultimate science fiction experience to me. Isn’t fiction often our escape from reality? To imagine, create, and experience a whole different world from our own. Giving Liara a unique romance scene is not being biased on BioWare’s part, because if she had the same scene as Kaidan and Ashley she wouldn’t be that much of an alien and BioWare might as well have made her look like Ashley.

Mass Effect RedemptionHowever, the romance content in the later Mass Effect games strongly imposes Liara’s prominence throughout the whole trilogy’s narrative. First, we have the comic book Mass Effect: Redemption which cleverly weaves a story where Liara T’Soni stops at nothing to retrieve Shepard’s body. It’s clever because the story flowed without conflicting any player’s canon whether they romanced Liara or not. In the comic, Liara does not declare her affection for Shepard but it is evidently seen how much she cares for the Commander throughout her adventures in Redemption.

If this story applies to everyone’s canon narrative then how about the Shepards who fell in love with Ashley or Kaidan? Their absence in the search for Shepard’s body could dangerously undermine the validity of their feelings toward Shepard. Players might start doubting pursuing the Virmire Survivor once more, and might even consider pursuing Liara. Ever since Redemption’s release, I’ve started to believe that Liara harbors strong if not romantic feelings for Shepard regardless of who you chose to pursue.

Moving on with Mass Effect 2, I really thought that I would be able to choose Miranda Lawson as a new love interest for Shepard due to Liara’s minimal role. There would be no guilt hovering around me or new content to keep me interested in the Liara storyline. However, when Lair of the Shadow Broker came out it was a whole new equation. I believe LotSB was the best DLC for the game, and can be considered amongst the strongest evidence that BioWare champions Liara’s growing prominence because she was the only squad-mate from the first game to have their own DLC with substantial content to flesh out her character and relationship with Shepard if she was pursued.

If you were unfaithful, she addresses your infidelity with humorous, memorable yet painful one-liners. There are also key moments in the game where BioWare pulls the guilt card on you by showing how much Liara was saddened and changed by your temporary death. In addition, it’s possible to have another romance scene with Liara if romanced previously and the right dialogue choice is selected. Liara’s role and appearance is nearly as significant as that of any regular squad-mates for Mass Effect 2.

T'soni 120

As for those who romanced the Virmire Survivor, you only encounter them on the planet Horizon for a very short time with a lot of bitterness and thus the term “Horizon Treatment” was born. “The Horizon Treatment” is a infamous phrase usually used by players in the forums to describe any poorly executed character role or appearance. Most new romantic options in Mass Effect 2 include more content for romance *cough*engine room*cough* but Liara’s DLC reasserts her rank with content as well.

For Mass Effect 3, I was determined to complete the game with the story-line I’d planned out. Previously in my canon, Shepard chose to stay friends with Liara to pursue Miranda. I stuck with Miranda on my first playthrough but it was not easy. Early on in the game, I was surprised that it was still possible to rekindle a relationship with Liara despite making it clear through the meanest renegade responses that it was over. Your decision during the current conversation is not yet locked and final and you still have another opportunity to rekindle a romance. Other romantic options such as Miranda just ask you once and if you reject them, they’re through with you.

Liara is also the only love interest who is available from nearly the beginning and can stay with you all throughout. There’s also no way to directly or indirectly cause her death except for the EMS rating that applies to everyone in the squad. Arguably, Liara has the most interactions with Shepard through the series, which include two well-written emotional scenes. Those scenes are available even if she was not romanced and they only vary slightly (if you’ve played, you’ll likely know which moments I’m referring to here).

Even if the asari archaeologist turned  Shadow Broker isn’t your love interest, the content of those scenes strongly suggests the strong feelings Liara might have for Shepard. In addition to Liara, Kaidan, and Ashley have the most substantial final romance scenes. Liara’s is slightly different mainly because of the unique method of asari bonding.


In the context of Liara’s role, the Refusal ending was pretty interesting. Liara was the one who spoke to beacon which was meant to communicate to the people of the next cycle. It might sound like it’s nothing, but she’s pretty much the spokesperson/voice for the last civilization. She’s speaking for humanity, the asari, krogan, and all the other species. This doesn’t have anything to do with Shepard’s love story, but it’s still another strong testament of her importance as a figure in the Mass Effect franchise.

To be fair, I played through the Extended Cut and Citadel DLCs, and in those expansions I think all of the possible love interests got more or less a fair share of time with Shepard. The Extended Cut still largely ignored the Mass Effect 2 love interests, but Citadel did make up for their glaring absence in the third game. My point is Liara did not steal the spotlight from anyone else for those DLCs (she did flirt with Shepard in Citadel regardless of whether you’ve romanced her before that point or not).

I only had one opportunity to spend time with her alone, when I had the chance to go on two dates with my favorite, Miranda. However, that still does not negate the arguments I mentioned above.

To summarize my points, (1) The major role of Liara’s character could help influence a player to choose her to maximize the experience and she is the only one you can have a romance scene with in all three games. (2) If she can die, then she is simply very, very hard to kill compared to other romance options and squad-mates. (3) There are numerous opportunities to establish and rekindle a romance regardless of who you chose and the occasions you reject her. (4) Her character is written in a way that suggests that she has strong feelings for Shepard regardless of her status as lover or friend.

Lastly, why would BioWare ever want to influence our decisions? No, they’re not evil or trying to mess with our minds. I do have two theories why! (1) Possibly, because the writers really favor Liara’s character and wrote her in such a way that is endearing to many fans. (2) Through seducing players with ‘Liara specific’ content and opportunities, the asari’s popularity makes it easier to establish a canon romance in other mediums such as the upcoming film.

Her popularity might overshadow the inevitable discontent from fans who chose otherwise. With these players in mind, I’m not saying that if you did not romance Liara you’re screwed! Go ahead, choose who you want your Shepard to love. The game is your story to tell, after all, don’t let anything like a movie with a fixed canon story-line to tell you otherwise.

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The other half who founded Gamemoir. Entrepreneur, writer, gamer, and also a human being. Follow me on Twitter @cdrbedlam

  • I also think they heavily imply Liara is the canon romance because she’s Asari. And they can (conveniently) mate with both male and females. So, it doesn’t matter if you choose a male or female Shepard. You’ll always have the option on romance her.

  • Shawn

    I romanced Liara/Tali/Tali my first time through with a male shepard.

    I romanced Liara/Liara/Liara my second time through with a female shepard.

    Both were really well done, but all the funny stuff Tali says when she is your love interest makes her well worth switching in ME2 and continuing the relationship in ME3.

    • True. All the other romances appeal to everyone in their own way! Hell, I stuck with my GMO Miranda until the very end.

    • Uyen

      she’s awesome up until she sings in citadel dlc haha totally killed that sound track for me (I was lost without you) I think… haha I chose “uh….” renegade choice after she sings… and that subsequently killed the mood lol

  • Drizzt

    Apart from what was said so far, I’d say another valid explanation would be, that Liara simply falls in love with you. And heavily so. For her it might not matter, that you didn’t respond to her advances. And when she rescues you from death, maybe you’ll see, who is really loving you.

    Liara is – in many ways – an interesting character. But something that became very clear during ME1 is, that she’s also very insecure. Therefore, after having given her heart to somebody, she might stick to her choice beyond was stronger personalities might consider healthy. Simply because she doesn’t want to deal with the rejection. Sure, in later ME parts, she is depicted as stronger/matured, but I often wondered how much she really grew up and how much is just show.

    On a purely personal note: I prefer to play as FemShep (far better voice acting, if you ask me) and I find Liara to be the most meaningful romance option available. From a role-playing perspective as well, since Liara is the Prothean expert and might be the person, that can shed some light on your visions and other things going on around you. Garrus is nice too, but not available at the beginning. Tali would be cool as well, but AFAIK you can only flirt with her as a FemShep.

  • Stephanie

    It’s funny — after listening to both – I thought that MaleShep had far superior voice acting — perhaps Citadel was an exception, where Hale raised her game. But, prior — she mostly just seemed fairly monotone and _trying_ too hard – often – to sound “badass”. Then again — after playing both, despite the forum participants skewing the actual #s (around 18-20% are played as MShep, while on Forums you’d swear it was 60 or more %).. I can’t take FemShep seriously for most of the trilogy — it just seems like a comedy almost. I am a feminist by the way — this is not sexism from me. Just square-peg and round-hole (hmmm… probably shouldn’t use pegs and holes to illustrate… 😉 No offense — it’s just my opinion. I think of ME as a Sci-Fi drama and not a dramedy/comedy… Femshep acting all tough at Krogan and such in ME1 … it’s … it is FUNNY. 🙂

    • Stephanie

      I meant that 18% to 20% are playing as FEMSHEP… That is the correct stat. There are 4 M’s for every one F’sheps…

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  • April Daniels

    Now if only they had just as heavily implied that FemShep was the canon player character, we’d be all set.

  • hwoosh

    Heh. I’ve played through ME1 about six times, but funnily enough never romanced Liara. I think my first playthrough, way back in 2007, with a male Shepard, I romanced nobody at all only because I was grumpy that I couldn’t romance Kaidan. Then in various playthroughs I romanced Ashley and Kaidan in ME1, and Tali, Miranda, and Garrus in ME2. I guess I should revisit the series and finally get around to Liara, even though I think I’ve tapped out any enjoyment I got from the gameplay.

    • Don’t get me started on Miranda. She is the true love of my Shepard! hah

      But you did notice how BioWare kept sending the ‘here’s your chance to romance Liara!’ over and over again? lol

  • Faith

    What was confusing for me was, I never romanced Liara. I didn’t romance anyone in the first one and romanced Garrus in the 2nd. Then in the third game I found Liara’s father at the bar where Liara is sitting on the citadel. I decided to talk to her and then she calls my shep, her girlfriend. I was so confused. I never romanced Liara in this playthrough. Now i’m worried it somehow screwed up my romance with Garrus!

  • Great write up. I always knew that the team favored Liara, but never really thought of it in this way. Personally, I romanced Kaiden. I mean, I pretty much wouldn’t romance a female. I generally play video games how I would act myself (or at least somewhat close) if I was making a decision.

  • Ryan

    Now, we just need a DLC expansion to support the forgotten love interests of ME 1&2 : Gianna Parasini, Shiala, & Aria T’Loak, then allow me to steal the ultimate love interest : EDI. Honestly, I have romanced nearly all of the possible choices, with respect to leaving Kaidan to hold the line on Virmire, [Revenge is a dish best served nuclear, Carth Onasi] but I did wish that I had the chance to snatch up EDI from Joker if given the opportunity. . Sure, dating aliens is nice and all, but the harmony between organics and synthetics is partly what Mass Effect revolves around, and it’s sad that Shepard never got a chance to romance a synthetic to drive that point home. Besides, who better than the ship s/he trusts his/her life to, an AI with a weird sense of humor and that lovely voice that charmed Ms. Traynor?

  • Dr. Mike

    I totally disagree. I simply think that you get so many chances to romance Liara because that is the kind of character that she is. She wouldn’t be my first choice anyway, I prefer hair to tentacles! as for the better Shepard actor, maybe there were more male Shepard fans to start, but in the end, Fem Shep won by a landslide in the polls! As well she ought!

  • Jet

    I think that it would have been funny if liara got to meet shep’s parents had you chosen the spacer route. Or even more funny would have been Liara’s dad getting invited to the mass effect party and have Zaeed hit on her rather than samara. I could just picture those to getting on well.

    It’s also interesting that Kelly was just about almost entirely forgotten. Would have liked to see her at least get invited to the party.

    About Liara however in one play through I romanced her through all the content and what annoyed me the most was despite the fact I had never cheated on her at all she kept asking wether or not they were both together. When clear signs in the game before those questions were asked. It’s like watching Tv on your honeymoon unnecessary. It’s also interesting to know liara has a half sister that was only mentioned by her dad. Would have been a good scene if liara met her. It was also kinda of sad because of the ending that liara hints that she’s now pregnant.

    Oh yes I did a play through with one of my shepards having no flings or relationships what so ever and there is a scene with anderson as he is dying talking to you about that. As why you didn’t pursue any love interests at all. despite given the numerous options and opportunities to do so.

    • I figure that Kelly was mostly forgotten because of several possible reasons:

      1.) Her role in the game was pretty small. Did we get to party with Engineer Adams in the DLC? Yeah… didn’t think so.

      2.) She did spy on you and your crew, so perhaps she didn’t feel welcome.

      3.) Depending on a variety of factors she could have: died in ME2, committed suicide in ME3, been murdered by Cerberus in ME3, or busy helping refugees on the Citadel.

      Also, considering her complete UNpopularity among the fan base, I’m not surprised that Bioware didn’t really give a shit about her. That said, I actually liked Kelly and am a little sad that she kind of went out the window when her replacement Traynor arrived. (BTW I liked Samantha)

  • I found her annoying and obsessive, but useful in the battlefield. Plus, she looks gross in ME2 & ME3… with the scales all over her. It just creeps me out.

    Besides, I figured since the rest of the ME fans are banging Liara, there’s no need for my Shepard(s) to do the same.

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  • Taha

    I played me3 first and found Ashley the most appealing to be honest
    Through my endeavour of the whole trilogy preceding it, I saw nothing but envy on Ashley for Liara
    Ideally: it should be Liara

  • What happens if Shepard does not choose a romantic partner in any of the games? Is this possible? What happens as a result of each game? What happens at the end of 3?

    • Shepard dies of a lonely existence. Just kidding.

      Without spoiling anything, a trail of broken hearts…

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  • Jess

    I am honestly really annoyed by how clear it is that they love Liara. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with a canon love interest. I still have the choice to do what I want, but I feel it every playthrough–they are trying to convince me to romance Liara.
    Of course they want us to have our pick, but she is definitely their favorite for a number of reasons. Clearly they love her character and want us to see it too. She isn’t forced on us, but she feels forced on us.
    And the Horizon treatment, I agree–it always upsets me. While people argue that Liara loves you regardless of dating/friendship, I feel this way about Kaidan. Whether you like his character or not, I feel no matter which LI is chosen, he secretly loves you and wishes you would choose him, and is there for you as a friend.
    I respect Kaidan/Ashley for sticking to their morals and steering clear of Cerberus, and since they send such thoughtful apology letters, I would even be able to forgive their words on Horizon, but the lack of content for them in the game leaves a player feeling empty. It’s easy to forget why you liked them so much in the first game, because that one argument scene is the only one vivid in your mind. Meanwhile, Liara’s got a whole DLC of content just begging for you to romance her.
    And sure, i can romance someone in ME2 but in the back of my mind I always know there won’t be much of them in the third at all, so I’ve got my pick between virmire survivors and Liara once again if I want an in-depth, imported romance.
    Also, like other squadmates, I think you should be able to kill Liara somehow, if that’s what you want. There’s no reason she needs to be immortal. They find ways to fill in Tali, Garrus–every ME2 role, and virmire survivors… They can fill in Liara if she dies…
    Plus, in one part, I believe Citadel DLC (fact check me) when your LI joins you for the mission, if you don’t have one, it’s Liara. I would’ve thought it’d be Joker-usually how it worked-or you just went solo for things like that in previous games, (a shot of shep alone in his/her quarters without a LI in ME2) but in ME3 I noticed I was seeing Liara more and more . . .

    I think their attempt to prove to us that she loved us no matter what as opposed to others did her character a disservice, because in many instances, it came off as obsessive instead of loving.

    • One of the reasons why I was unsatisfied with ME3 vanilla game was cause of the lack of closure with my ME2 romance. Liara seemed like the viable choice to make the most out of the trilogy as a whole in terms of content.

      Yeah, I remember how I ended it with Liara twice yet she still keeps coming back.

  • Erin

    While you make a lot of good points, I have to disagree with you opinion on Liars being a likable character. Played all three games and in each on she annoyed the he’ll out of me more and more. Especially when I forced myself to romance her. I agree that she probably has romantic feelings for Shepard no matter what but ever since the first game her dialogue always struck me as a life creepy. Wouldn’t have even recruited her is cookware gave you the option and spent a good part of LotSB trying to figure out if you could kill her off. In my opinion if a movie was made where biohazard said Liars was steps LI it would be the worst possible thing in the film.
    But every one is entitled to their own opinion so yeah good points and I admit it is like biohazard is shoving a romance with her down your throat but can’t agree when you call her endearing.

  • Erin

    Also sorry about my mistakes in the previous comment my IPad is using predictive text

  • Hi, I am know I am late to the party, but I wanted to comment on your excellent blog.

    I would go even one step further and suggest that Liara was not only the canon romance from the start but it was with a FemShep. Let me explain with some simple evidence.

    In the first Mass Effect Liara was the only one available for lesbian/bi FemSheps, even though there was evidence that Ashley’s lines were also recorded for a fem/fem relationship (Kaiden too for males I believe, but I never tested that). In part 2 there was NO real romantic interest for lesbian/bi FemSheps, until Lair of the Shadow Broker, where of course it was Liara again.

    Now switch to maleshep, who had PLENTY of opportunities throuhhout the trilogy, even getting Ashley AND Kaiden in part three. (Which incidentally discounts Ashley as an option for Femsheps, BUT introduces another for malegaysheps in Steve.)

    Liara remains the only constant through all three parts for lesbian/bi FemSheps. Kelly Chambers obviously does not count, since even BioWare did not count her as a lover in part 2 (no Paramour). Neither does Samara or Diana Allers.

    I found it kinda weird they made Kaiden available for males, but not Ashley for females (or Tali… goddess knows, I would have went for her over Liara if I could, but Liara was fine too). Personally i believe every romanceable option should be available for everybody, since that is what roleplaying is. Being able to make decisions you want, based on how you wanna play.

    And no that does not make anybody bisexual or whatever… they are who they are in YOUR game. If you romance Liara as a female, then she is lesbian. If you romance Ashley as a male she is straight. What others do in their game does not influence who they are in YOUR game. That argument is always silly (same for other BioWare games, like Dragon Age:)

    • That’s a very astute observation, so thanks for the new perspective! I never thought of it that way. I also agree that it’s stupid how people fight over what’s canon or not. It’s a choice game!

      However, there are instances wherein a canon is indeed set. Just look at the KOTOR games!

  • Vin

    Even before ME2 came around I favored Liara plus another plot point that default Shepard should be biotic storyline wise (game wise soldier is more default for players).

    Before even receiving the Cipher, Shepard was already able handle the beacon which is already abnormal and more resilient than typical humans. This suggested that Shepard has a unique and stronger mind than others fom the start and just makes sense Shepard would have great biotic control if he were biotic. Receiving more bits of prothean beacon data in his head through the game and the cipher simply framed that as a piece of Shepard’s identity for the rest of the series which was retouched in ME3. Liara went in his head to sort it out and Liara’s interactions with Shepard were revolved around that very aspect that played significance to his mission.

    Romance aside, if you was actually Shepard and just stuck to the mission only, who would you look back and say “Grand kids, there was a time I did this and that” with in mind? It’s clear cut that Liara would be remembered more. I could picture mass effect 2 and 3 (from before they were even released) involving her in the direct storyline more than the Virmire dependent options who who were storyline expendable.

    Fun fact. Actors and actresses who had to play roles together have greater chances of winding up together. Intimacy. Just makes sense that a stronger tie to the storyline framed that decision from the launch of the trilogy.

  • Strogg

    I saw through Bioware’s attempt to make Ashley a racist, annoying white girl….so I chose Ashley as my love interest!

    • PKBitchGirl

      Ashley’s not white though, her ME1 writer Chris L’Etoile confirmed she was hispanic

      • Strogg

        Doesn’t matter what human ethnicity she was. She was a human and they made her a racist. I didn’t fall for it.

        • Vim Venci

          So, the creators of the character made her a racist, and you don’t believe she is a racist?


          • Strogg

            You’re an idiot who cannot comprehend what you read. Bioware made Ashley a racist INTENTIONALY so you’ll “connect” with the other races. How convenient that Ashley is white. Why wasn’t Liara the racist one? BINGO! Because brainwashing. And they hooked you!

          • Karelian Hero

            Ashley ISN’T white… Forgot that already? You aren’t too smart are you?
            Not really in any position to call ANYONE “idiot” I must say.

            And Asari are definitely very condescending towards other races, iow “racist”, and they’re blue… Let’s discuss Turian and their views on humans maybe? Racist as hell…
            And they’re all kinds of colours, but mostly blue’ish…
            So I guess the TRUE racists are mostly blue in colour? (as is Ashleys armour in all but the very first game making it an even stronger point)

            Damn I always KNEW those damneable smurfs was total racists!

          • Strogg

            Nah bro. Liara was not made to be the racist one. Ashley was, and it was painfully obvious. And once again, that is why I chose Ashley. Her name is Ashley Williams. Williams is a pretty white last name lol. So ya, she’s white, ya jack knob!

          • SneakaFreaka

            Her name is white therefor… oh god i’m getting a headache of the stupidity. I guess all those black slaves were white as well, and those with mixed parents.

          • Strogg

            Well HELLOOO Captain PC!!! lol idiot.

          • SneakaFreaka

            If you think that’s pc instead of commonsense then who’s the idiot? You won’t be able to guess with your IQ so i help you out, it’s you dipshit.

          • Strogg

            lol dude you don’t gotta get all sensitive on me, bud! YIKES!!! xD xD xD

          • SneakaFreaka

            “Well HELLOOO Captain PC!!! lol idiot.”

            That many exclamation marks and starts right of the bat with insults, i’m pretty sure you’re the emotional faggot here.

          • Strogg

            lol you’re a moron.

          • John Yeah

            Yeah you are right she is racist her dialogue confirms it.

    • Wake Up


  • Barry Smith

    Great article. I just started playing this game and noticed the same thing.

  • Wake Up

    Whats the point, Liara is great

    • GaigeMechromancer

      The irony is that Liara’s character was actually pretty good. I should have been fond of her from the get-go. But Bioware’s repeated attempts to shove her down your throat at every opportunity turned me off to the point where despite being pure paragon, I rebuffed her every chance I got. Of course, in ME3 (pre-patch), one of the three people that got a flashback portrait in Shepard’s memory was Liara…despite my being an ass to her through all three games. It pissed me off more than the ending.

  • SneakaFreaka

    Tali > Liara

    • Kerry LeBlanc

      Tali she just so damn lovable, and it turns out, it’s good thing she wears that breathing apparatus. Puts them all to shame.

  • Kerry LeBlanc

    Not sure if I agree with that premise, if you don’t have the shadow broker dlc, his contact with liara is virtually nil, even ME 3 you to basically start from scratch. Don’t think they thought through unlike Morrigan from Baldur’s Gate series who makes it clear STAY AWAY FROM MY MAN or you won’t live to regret it

  • Romek

    I don’t know about Ashley in Mass Effect 1 (never played it) but she was SO ANNOYING about Cerberus that I ruled her out as a romance option right away. First time she went on about that Cerberus thing, I just couldn’t believe it. I was like “like hell I chose them out of all people in the goddamn galaxy to revive me, I was DEAD you stupid bitch”, so I never paid her any more attention.
    So yeah, Liara it was. I don’t know, she was just cute and seemed to genuinely care for my Shep. After all these errands and shootouts through the galaxy, having someone who loved me felt really good.


    I chose to destroy the reapers and so miraculously survived (well at least part of my Shep’s breathing on a pile o rubble), so now we’re both stranded on different planets with no means to travel and litteraly light years between us. Now ain’t that romantic?

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