The view of the stars shows the emptiness amongst, and emptiness is what Shepard feels, watching.
This is it. The final mission. The real suicide mission.
For all the forces that have been amassed, the Reapers' strength still makes all the efforts futile. It is luck, mere chance, that will decide their fate – chance that they need to strive and struggle and die for, to ensure even a chance of chance happening.
And if the chance fails...
Some survivors might find hideouts across the galaxy; on some distant, backwater planets, humanity might attempt to rebuild... But can it be hoped that the Reapers won't find them? No-one knows how thorough a harvest is but eternal machines can spend millenia, tens of millenia, combing the galaxy.
None of the previous cycles saw a reappearance of the harvested races, after all.
The letters are almost finished, and not as hard to write as he had expected, except the usual struggles with phrasing. He is sorry he hadn't arranged for a meeting with mom prior the attack on the Cerberus station was launched, but when soldiering, that's the way things go.
The story of my life. Always a soldier.
There was a time he thought this was all there was to it, to his life, and that this was all that he wanted. It has been only recently, in those sleepless nights, that he wonders what else he might have done with his life, and that he will most likely never have a chance to find out. He gets up, studying up close the ship models that he has collected and assembled with his own hands. He has always had a knack for ship designs, though the time when he toyed with an idea of becoming a ship engineer was only brief. He drops his eyes to his hands: a fine killing instrument, could they ever be anything else?
If I had become an engineer, where would I be now? Dead or on the run, most likely, unable to do a thing. Despairing about the fate of my family...
Family. Somehow, that concept never seemed to have a place in his life, and with a pang of guilt, he realizes that it is something he never really discussed with the one person he should have.
Somehow, though, it makes that last letter easier to write.
Dearest Jack, dearest wife,
I am not sure if I have made sufficiently clear how much our time together meant for me. If our effort has failed, I'll be waiting for you wherever it is people wait, to tell you in person. But if we have won, my love, go on living. Live all those things that I cannot give you any more. And dance and laugh, and write some beautiful poems. I wish I could write you something beautiful, too, but my poetry is even worse than my dancing, and I cannot think about anything more beautiful than 'I love you', anyway. So, I love you, Jack, and always will.
He stares at the screen for a few minutes but then simply signs with an 'S.', the way he always does. EDI will arrange for the letters to be stored on the extranet, to make sure they will reach their recipients even in case the Normandy is destroyed. There is just the last thing that needs to be done, because bureaucrats will probably survive even the Reapers.
To my beloved wife, Jacqueline Nought, I bequeathe...
Turning off the datapad, Shepard lies down to gather strength,to give all he has into the fight for the chance of a chance.
A/N: First and foremost, huge thanks to Centaurus, shipwreck321, , Guest and MaryZ Fayner for the reviews. I am very grateful that you still take your time to let me know that you enjoy my work, after I take so long to finish it.
There is perhaps one thing I'd like to clarify a bit. I don't believe in perfect people, or playthroughs, for that matter, which is why some characters are dead in this story. It is also the reason why Jack, who, IMHO, has already come a very long way from the psycho we meet in ME2, is still not entirely without issues - in fact, I am not even sure that in RL, people would be able to overcome such terrible emotional deprivation she had been subject to practically since birth. Shepard had never been so far gone in his PTSD as her, which is why he is eventually able to overcome his initial dislike of Miranda while Jack is not (yet). Even so, I consider her grudging acknowledgment of Miranda's worth a huge improvement from the blind hatred and disdain towards "the Cerberus bitch" that she was displaying during ME2, and for which Miranda's change of heart after the Collector base came too late - Jack left the Normandy soon and never had a reason, or opportunity, to reflect on the woman whose personality would have rubbed her the wrong way even if not for the Cerberus involvement. That talk with Shepard is the first time she does, and it is the first time in her life (at least in my works) that she actually refers to Miranda by her first name. If she hadn't been so absorbed in the issue she had wanted to discuss with Shepard so much, she might have gone even further, but, hey - imperfect people in an imperfect world. Perhaps in the years to come, if they both live :P