Hello there.

I'm back with another story. After humoristic "Shepard's Cunning Plan", my muse did a 180 degree turnaround and switched to sadder themes. Having a load of course work in university and listening too much of "Roter Sand" by Rammstein kinda pushed it along the way. Now that I don't have any more work to do and now am on a holiday, I decided to celebrate my freedom with my second fanfic on this site.

This story is dedicated to the author going by pen name "Thessian Shadow", who piqued my interest with the stories "From Ashes" and "When All Was Lost", which feature a rare pairing – F!Shepard/Councilor Tevos. I found both of them very good and suggest that you go check them out.

I know that many like to put Aria and Tevos together, and I like that pairing too, but I decided not to use the beaten path. No offense. There will be a reference to this pairing, but for the purposes of this fic, the romance between Aria and Tevos took place centuries ago, and is non-existent now.

Since there's little to none canon information on Tevos, I took a liberty of envisioning my own version of this character.

WARNING: this story is rated M for violence, swearing, and inevitable character death. Also, keep in mind that I did not pick the "Tragedy" genre for nothing.

CAREFUL, SPOILER: There's no happy ending with lovers' reunion in this story. If this is not to your liking, I can't do squat. This story is already formed, and its plot is not subject to any changes.

COMPULSORY DISCLAIMER: Mass Effect belongs to BioWare and Electronic Arts. This piece of fan fiction is written for non-commercial purposes only.

Councilor Tevos T'Semni once heard from her ex-colleague, David Anderson, that one of the scariest curses of one of the Earth's nations, the Chinese, sounded like "I wish that you lived in times of change" (translated literally). Anderson admitted that he never verified whether such curse really existed or if someone had invented that story, but he told her that he would gladly agree to call these words (when addressed to somebody out of spite) a curse.

Tevos thought, again, that for a race so young compared to other species in the galaxy, humanity sometimes had the wisdom which would rival the one of asari. For she already was in her five hundred nineties (as the aforementioned ex-human Councilor said once in jest), and knew first-hand that when a time of change came, many sentients started to seek better fate and carve a new future for themselves, which promptly turned into a bloody game where many wanted to get a better deal at the cost of others. Such times always included a lot of violence, a high mortality rate and lots of grief in the galaxy. For those who failed to adapt had only one fate: death.

And now, she thought, I got the "privilege" (Sparatus' air quotes added) to witness the truth of that phrase myself.

The ones to blame for the latest change were the Reapers. Horrible sentient machines, twisted fusions of metal and organic tissue hell-bent on committing genocide of the whole galaxy every fifty thousand years. The ones who wiped out the whole Prothean race.

The ones who were wiping out the whole organic life in the galaxy in this very moment.

Even if they were thwarted, which was not likely, considering the sheer power at their disposal, the galaxy will never be the same as before. But the most truth-like variant would be a repeat of what was done to the Protheans, and the continuation of the most horrible cycle to have ever been invented.

Still, Tevos, as many people in the galaxy, had a slim hope. Hope provided by a person known to have defied many odds. A person, whose race was still a newcomer in the galaxy, yet managed to do in several decades what normally required centuries.

This person was Commander Jane Shepard, the first human Spectre, the Butcher of Torfan, the woman who ran with the gangs and had an extensive criminal record when she was still a kid. The woman who thwarted Saren, destroyed the Collector base, who was killed, for Goddess' sake, yet came back to life with the help of Cerberus.

Ironic that Shepard now is Cerberus' worst enemy. I wonder if the Illusive Man imagined this outcome. He should have; he couldn't be ignorant of Shepard's hatred for xenophobia and unethical experiments, which he promoted.

When the Reaper War started, Shepard managed a few feats that people could not deem possible even when intoxicated. She helped to cure the genophage and promote peace between turians and krogan warriors, which in itself was deemed an impossible feat, but when she managed to make quarians and the geth to stop their mutually destructive war and cooperate of all things, people of the galaxy thought this particular piece of news to be a media spoof – or someone's morale-boosting prank.

That is, until geth Primes started dropping on Reaper forces from above. When that happened, many soldiers reflexively released torrents of mass effect accelerated slugs before they even comprehended that the synthetics were not actually firing on them, but on the Reapers instead. The asari Councilor chuckled; the expressions on faces of asari commandoes on frontlines were nothing short of priceless.

However, Tevos was not naïve, and knew that those victories cost Shepard a lot. The aforementioned biggest feats were paid for with the deaths of her closest comrades. Mordin Solus, ex-STG operative and brilliant scientist, the one who played a crucial role in the defeat of the Collectors, went out in flames on the top floor of the Shroud, so that the krogan would be free from the genophage, and, having learnt from their mistakes, would build a better future for them. And the peace between quarians and the geth required the dissemination of a gestalt geth intelligence, which ("who", Tevos corrected herself, he, not it, was alive, just like the rest of us) responded to the name "Legion". "My name is Legion, for we are many". An appropriate metaphor, indeed.

From what she knew, Shepard was positively devastated when she returned to the Normandy after the mission of Rannoch. The mere fact that an organic could become accustomed to a synthetic as much as to any other organic being shocked Tevos, but she managed to understand this attachment to some degree. Shepard bore the brunt of this war, uniting the galaxy when it seemed that everyone would rather go extinct than work together.

Not only that, but when the Council itself was in danger from Cerberus, their lives were ultimately saved by the heroic sacrifice by drell assassin Thane Krios. Councilor Valern wanted to share some suspicions about Udina with C-Sec Executor when the human supremacist organization attacked the heart of galactic society. Valern survived the initial attack, but Cerberus was not fooled; their best assassin, Kai Leng, was ready to deliver a killing blow to the salarian Councilor, when Krios drew his attention. In short and fierce battle, Thane forced Leng to retreat – but he received a fatal stab by a monomolecular sword. The terminal stage of Kepral's syndrome did not help matters, either, and the infamous assassin expired in front of Shepard's eyes in Huerta Memorial Hospital. Shepard was extremely angry at Cerberus after that, so much that she mercilessly wiped out any Cerberus force she happened to encounter with such ferocity that even the Illusive Man had to shudder from.

Tevos couldn't help but think if another one of her friends died that day, Shepard would have exploded with the force of a Goddess-damned antimatter warhead. Fortunately for everyone present, Lieutenant-Commander Ashley Williams, the second human to be accepted in the ranks of Special Tactics and Reconnaissance office of Citadel Councilhad enough common sense to trust her Commander instead of Donnel Udina, who actually staged a coup just in order to give Cerberus (if unwittingly) an advantage that would cost the galaxy everything. As Tevos speculated later, if Williams refused to stand down, Shepard would gun her down without a second thought.

One did not have to be a rocket scientist or hold a PhD in psychology to understand that all those events took a pretty heavy toll on the Commander, and Tevos wished that she could just hold the first human Spectre and give her knowledge that someone supported her wholeheartedly. Strange thoughts for a politician of such a high rank, yes, but even politicians were not immune to their inner feelings.

And Tevos, in fact, had romantic feelings for Commander Jane Shepard.

To put it bluntly, Matriarch Aethyta style: Tevos has fallen hard for Shepard.

She could not even tell when her heart deemed it necessary to be filled with such sacred feeling. Tevos was not ignorant of who Shepard was, and did a lot of background checks, when Shepard's candidature for the Spectres was still debated over. Nothing seemed to be out of place; sure, Shepard was well-known, but she was not the only one. Tevos could name at least ten people more famous and influential (and more attractive) than Shepard out of the top of her head.

Yet, during the course of Normandy's hunt for Saren, the asari couldn't help but notice… something within the first human Spectre. When Shepard made her reports to the Citadel Council, she stood her ground against doubts, admonishments and even snarky statements from Councilor Sparatus (honestly, he was wearing his heart on the sleeve too openly even for a turian), sometimes even going as far as to lose the comm channel. That went too far, in Tevos' opinion, and annoyed her, yet she couldn't help but admire the human's bravery. Shepard made her message clear to the Council: I report to you, but that doesn't mean you can just roll over me whenever you want, Councilors or not. Very few would dare to defy the Council that way.

Not to mention that Shepard's decisions were extremely controversial, if not outright harmful for the galaxy (in Council's opinion) or destructive. When rescuing Liara T'Soni from the geth on Therum, Shepard initiated a seismic event (albeit unwittingly) that triggered an eruption of volcano that held Prothean ruins inside. A loss of such magnitude was nearly unforgivable in eyes of the high and mighty, and were Shepard not a Spectre, the courts would not give her any mercy. But Spectre status gave her an official free cop-out.

Then, on Feros, Shepard had discovered a previously unknown species, the Thorian. And almost immediately went to destroy it, because it used a form of mind control on the colonists (or she insisted so), which was against her moral code (many would dismiss the notion of the Butcher of Torfan having any sort of moral code, but Tevos knew better). In this case, she could not really fault Shepard, and the fact that she actually did her best to save the colonists was only a plus, but, seriously, was it really necessary to hang up on the Council just because Sparatus made insulting hints? Such behavior would be considered childish at best.

Shepard never learned that Spectre position is very political. And no one actually bothered to warn her. Is that a surprise, in this case?

Then came Noveria, and with it, confrontation with traitorous Matriarch Benezia. Amazingly, Shepard's team won, beating unenviable odds – asari commandoes, geth troopers, and Matriarch against best N7 operative, a well-known krogan warlord and said Matriarch's daughter. And moments after her victory, she discovered a Rachni Queen, and instead of doing the sensible thing (dropping acid on her), she believed Queen's claims that their people "never wanted war", but "were forced into it" (Oh really?) and up and released her. The whole Council was not amused by this situation, and they did not hide it, so Shepard up and disconnected again. That evening, Tevos took her time using some chosen words about reckless human Spectre, in private, of course. And yet, some part of her said, that human surely doesn't lack for spirit. Fascinating…

After that, came Virmire. What was supposed to be the light recon mission turned into a fierce battle, after which the crew of the Normandy lost their comrade, and 3rd STG Infiltration regiment was nearly wiped out. And it all ended in a nuclear blast. After that, Shepard came to the Citadel, almost begging to let her come to Ilos and catch Saren there, but Tevos (and the whole Council) didn't believe her – or her claims about Reapers. No offense to Shepard, but the whole claim did look ludicrous, and there was no tangible evidence. Spectre's word is not enough to risk a war with Terminus Systems, especially if they all united under the banner of Aria T'Loak. No matter what relationship we had in the past, she would not take kindly to this. So, they ordered Shepard to stay on the Citadel, and put Normandy on lockdown.

Yet Shepard went as far as to openly disobey the Council and steal her own ship, just to complete her mission before Reapers invaded the galaxy (not that anyone except Shepard, her crew and her mentor, then-Captain Anderson, knew about that or was willing to believe her). And she was proven right in the end, when Sovereign and geth fleet attacked the Citadel, and nearly took apart the flagship of the whole Citadel Fleet, Destiny Ascension.

Tevos was so sure that she and her colleagues would perish along with nearly ten thousand of asari crew, because the situation was really desperate: Destiny Ascension was mercilessly pounced upon by geth ships, GARDIAN systems were offline and powerless to stop disruption torpedoes, barriers were failing, no other ships could help, and Sovereign was inside the closed Citadel, doing Goddess-only-knew-what.

And when all seemed lost, Alliance Fifth Fleet came out of the unlocked relay, and rushed to help the besieged Destiny Ascension, suffering losses. Tevos did not learn until after the battle that the recommendation to save them came from Shepard, the same person who had all reasons to be angry with the Council, and who sacrificed three-quarters of her unit on Torfan. Everybody would expect that she would spare the reinforcements and concentrate on Sovereign, abandoning the Council to their ignoble fate. Needless to say, the whole Council was shocked to the core.

It was then when Tevos fully noticed that Shepard had some sort of fire within her that inspired loyalty not only among her crew, who were bound to serve her by Alliance military code, but also among her rag-tag team of misfits, who were complete strangers and owed almost nothing to Shepard: an unfairly overlooked granddaughter of the only human to have surrendered to alien force, an L2 biotic, a krogan mercenary battlemaster with his unique views on honour, a turian ex-C-Sec officer with renegade views on justice, a quarian kid on Pilgrimage who was unwelcome almost everywhere and an asari scientist, who was an outcast in her society even before her mother was proven to be a traitor to the galactic community.

Anyone would bet that such team would not hold together, yet everyone of the aforementioned individuals followed Shepard through the whole ride and was ready to follow her into hell itself, if she deemed it necessary, and get out from there unscathed. Not to mention that the whole crew of the Normandy supported their CO when she dared to openly disobey the Council and the orders of Ambassador Udina, which was a capital offense.

When Tevos saw the fire within Shepard for what it was, she couldn't help but feel… attracted… to the human. The knowledge that Tevos owed her very life to the human she dismissed as a glorified grunt (admittedly unfairly) only compounded the birthing feeling composed of gratefulness, shame, and interest. She would mentally curse herself, of course, but she couldn't really help it. The asari Councilor always paid more romantic attention (if such a word combination is possible) to sentients with strong personalities and the fire within. Of course, such sentients were very rare. In fact, the last time she felt something like that was several centuries ago, when she familiarized herself with the youngest daughter of T'Loak family.

Tevos smiled at the memories. She and Aria had a lot of good time together, from sneaking around to steal a kiss from each other to engaging into… daring intimate activities. The current Pirate Queen of Omega always held herself confidently, but there was more beneath her exterior. She knew how to make everyone listen to her, and had a streak of mischief. No surprise that many wanted to be around her back in those days. She held the fire within her, the fire which charmed the asari Councilor and dragged her to itself.

Unfortunately, the fates were not kind enough to them. When their families discovered the secret romance brewing between them, they practically outright forbade them to date, a decision which was not met well by both parties. In fact, Aria and Tevos practically started a rebellion, trying to escape their "captivity" and continue seeing each other. Neither of them believed in the whole issue concerning so-called "pureblood" offsprings, and didn't see anything bad in their romance (when they stated that openly to their parents, nearly everyone lost their jaws), which, unfortunately, was not the case with their families. The issue eventually escalated into a firefight involving those few who dared to support the asari Romeo and Juliet against the acolytes of both houses. In the end, both Aria and Tevos were brought to the heel, the decision that had bad consequences for the asari. Eventually, Aria escaped her relatives and started carving her way in the Terminus Systems, and became the queen of Omega in the end. And soon after that, she claimed her family wealth, since by then, nobody but her was alive from the whole T'Loak family (rumours persisted that Aria played a hand in her relatives' untimely demise, but nobody proved that, nor was willing to try). When the news reached the matriarchs, a lot of them were either scared or angered, since T'Loak family assets were quite valuable. Fortunately, Aria was not really interested in internal asari politics; having ensured that her family wealth is safe, she sent a big "fuck you" to the matriarchs and left for Omega, never to return. Unfortunately, this proved to be detrimental for their relationship – the spark that fueled their passion was lost, and Aria and Tevos never rekindled their relationship, instead choosing to remain friends – in secret, of course. But Tevos never forgot Aria's fire.

And now, having witnessed Shepard's fire herself, she couldn't help but pay more attention to the human. What began as an innocent interest turned into desire. Unfortunately, Shepard still insisted on her Reaper theory, and while Tevos witnessed Sovereign's power herself, she could not allow mass panic to begin by openly acknowledging the threat; so she assisted in sidelining Shepard, making her hunt the remaining pockets of Geth resistance. Tevos was not heartless enough not to feel shame; she knew that Commander was proven right. She mentally promised herself that once Commander came back, she would have a private personal chat with her on the whole matter.

However, as Anderson would probably say, karma has decided to be a bitch: before Tevos had the chance to fulfill her promise, Normandy SR-1 was blown to smithereens by an unknown assailant. And Shepard, as the reports said, did not survive the encounter. In fact, nobody was even able to find her body on Alchera, where the whole catastrophe took place.

Tevos grieved silently for the Commander, being sad that such promising individual was lost, and attended the "funeral", which buried the empty coffin, said several words about her eternal debt to Shepard, etc. It was really hard for her not to burst into tears, but she had too much experience as a politician to do that. She quickly recomposed herself, focusing on the needs of the galaxy. Even then, she couldn't help but remember Shepard and her fire, and wish that the human never died.

Be careful what you wish for. Another human saying which held wisdom.

Two years after the attack on the Normandy, Shepard was reported to have been seen on Omega. With Cerberus agents.

Tevos didn't know what to think; she could not understand why Shepard would fake her own death (as it seemed at that time) and work with Cerberus of all things. She could not help but feel a sharp sting of betrayal, as if the human not only betrayed the galactic government, but also betrayed Tevos personally. Surely the first human Spectre would know better than to work for the sworn enemy of the Council, the one that preaches human supremacy over all sentient beings of the galaxy, and that had committed multiple atrocities, some of which she stopped herself? And she chose not to believe the rumours, trying to bury her memories of the brave human within the depths of her mind.

But then, Shepard appeared in front of her, in the flesh. She quickly, but insistedly reported that the Collectors (and by extension, Reapers – yes, Reapers again) were behind the strange disappearances of human colonies in the Terminus Systems, and appealed for help, since she was none too pleased (or she appeared so, at least) to work with Cerberus. At least, she did not appear to be brainwashed. Tevos was still bowled over by the course of events, and, confused, did not do better than to retain Shepard's Spectre status. The human was not amused by yet another refusal (even if she saw a reason behind it), but did not refuse the "gesture of peripheral support", not that it mattered in the Terminus Systems (and the Council did not want Shepard to act as a Spectre anywhere else).

Another thing was Shepard's insistence on actually having been dead as dead can be after being spaced and suffocating due to oxygen pipe breach. Tevos could not believe it; no one could. Yet, she decided to discover as much as she could about Shepard's claims; and after having contacted Shadow Broker and some other information brokers, among which was Liara T'Soni herself, she was forced to conclude that Shepard did not actually lying. In fact, Tevos was astonished to discover that it was Liara who gave Shepard's body to Cerberus, in slim hope that they would be able to resurrect the human.

Lazarus Project. Named after the legend in Christian Bible, in which Jesus Christ resurrected Lazarus, a man who was dead for four days. What a fitting name.

So many things could have gone wrong with this project. So many things could have been done to ensure that Shepard would remain a slave for Cerberus forever. So much has changed in Shepard after the successful outcome of Lazarus project, but one thing was certain.

The fire within Shepard never went out, and it burned even more brightly. Anderson joked humourlessly later in a private conversation that when death tried to take Shepard, she kicked and screamed until she landed a perfect strike at Grim Reaper's, er, privates, and broke free, escaping its clutches. Tevos did not understand the joke until Anderson explained to her what exactly Grim Reaper was and what consequences kicking human males into that very area had. Even then, the joke went over her head because of cultural differences. She gave up trying to understand it, and continued to keep track of Shepard, while cursing her turian and salarian colleagues for the desire to just ignore Shepard's warnings and the political trap she found herself in because of their attitude. Sure, spreading panic was not an option, which was inevitable if the truth was made public, but the first human Spectre cared little for politics. Still, there was an option of trying to prepare in secret, yet it was not taken. Even her own government refused to take measures aimed at possible future defense from any external threat.

Meanwhile, the arisen-from-the-dead human made even more turmoil than during her hunt for Saren. She built up a team of the best biotics, warriors, and tech specialists one could find in the galaxy. Say what you will about the Illusive Man, but he obviously had an eye for a talent. Even if said talent belonged to an alien. Tevos did not dare to hope that the proverbial shell would fall into the same hole twice and that such a diverse team (even more diverse than one of the first Normandy) could become fiercely loyal to Shepard. After all, there were characters in the team that could not possibly hope to work together under normal circumstances. Tevos recalled all the dossiers given to Shepard by The Illusive Man, plus all intelligence reports on the Normandy SR-2 that she laid her eyes upon, in her head.

Garrus Vakarian, who worked earlier with Shepard and, after her death, made himself known as Archangel, a vigilante that nearly got himself overrun with the three biggest players in private military contractors' business: Blue Suns, Blood Pack, and Eclipse. His old CO appeared just in time to save him, but he did not escape unscarred, and not only physically. Betrayal by one of his squadmates gnawed at him, and he sought revenge. When he got the chance, he asked Shepard to assist. And she granted him his wish.

Cruel, but Shepard was never merciful to traitors either. After that, the last hope of Garrus being not loyal to Shepard was gone.

Mordin Solus, a scientist and an ex-STG operative, the one who invented the means of protection from Collectors' seeker swarms and the one who did the most part in altering the genophage virus that would counter their beginning of recovering from the deadly curse. He believed firmly that this choice was the right one, but also had a code of ethics. A rare trait in his line of work. He almost killed his student, Maelon, when the latter started developing a cure for the genophage, using the philosophy of ends justifying the means. But Shepard stopped him, allowed to get over his student's decisions, and persuaded him to save the data, even if they were dangerous and received by unethical means. And he responded by helping her with producing the genophage cure.

I'm sure he saw the irony. May the Goddess watch over him. He did not deserve to die and not to see the result of his work.

Jack, a victim of Cerberus' experiments and seemingly never ending abuse, the woman who had a male name (a strange trait, Tevos mused) and a lot of convictions, one of the worst known criminals with a lot of biotic firepower. She was loyal to no one but herself, and demanded that Shepard helped her in her quest for revenge against Cerberus, which was not a smart thing to do – but the Commander agreed, and then helped her to blow up the facility that made Jack into what she was with a DX-57. The convict felt gratitude, and eventually, admitted that Shepard was a good woman, and decided to follow her to the end of the suicide mission.

And now she rose to prominence as a biotic instructor. She'll bear the scars forever, but maybe she'll heal.

Urdnot Grunt, the tank-bred krogan created by warlord Okeer, who was well known and very hated among his compatriots. Dubbed a "perfect krogan", he planned to go on a rampage, but was trumped by Shepard, who promised him worthy enemies. She most definitely kept her promise, Tevos mused darkly. And when he showed the signs of turning into an adult, namely the barely controllable blood rage, the Commander took care to join him as his krannt during the Rite of Passage. Together they managed to do the impossible – they killed a thresher maw on foot! Grunt proudly proclaimed Shepard as his battlemaster, stating that she had no match.

I don't doubt that he would follow her even if she went into an active volcano.

Kasumi Goto, the notorious thief that could penetrate almost every type of defense system as if they never existed. She had (judging by what Tevos caught from Shepard's words) a cheerful personality, and one almost could not believe that the young Japanese was capable of harbouring hatred – but she did, and that hatred had a target: Donovan Hock. This "businessman" killed Kasumi's lover, Keiji Okuda, and tried to crack open his graybox. And the thief wanted it back.

Note to self: next time I want something back, I should just ask Shepard.

Of course, no plan survives contact with the enemy, and Goto's carefully planned heist went down the drain when they found the graybox. This quickly turned into battle against Hock's guard from Eclipse, which eventually resulted in crimelord's death when his gunship exploded in Bekenstein's skies. Kasumi's desire for revenge was fully sated, and she also had the thing most precious for her back. And she gained a trustworthy friend in Shepard.

An ally like this is priceless. From what I know about Project Crucible, Miss Goto helped them a lot with her skills at her… not so legal job.

Zaeed Massani, the founder of the Blue Suns, who was betrayed by Vido Santiago and shot to the head – but survived, and from that moment, he was gunning for his ex-colleague with almost unparalleled hatred. During the course, he became one of the best and the most notorious mercenaries in the Terminus Systems, which made him an appropriate target for recruitment by Cerberus. Unfortunately, Massani was not completely free – he still had to deal with the Blue Suns on Zorya, where the mercs had seized an Eldfell-Ashland facility, and the Goddess saw it fit to send his nemesis there. When the old veteran saw Santiago, he started a fire which trapped the workers inside. If Shepard's team were to try and rescue the workers, they would have had to let Santiago go.

But they did not.

Tevos shuddered; she knew that Shepard was prone to making hard and morally ambiguous choices, Torfan being the most well-known, but not the only one. However, this yielded the favourable results for the human Commander: Zaeed, not being distracted by his grudge anymore, delved fully into the mission, and even after its completion, stayed loyal to Shepard.

To each his own, I guess.

Tali'Zorah vas Normandy nar Raaya. She also served with Shepard on the SR-1, but was unable to join her the first time they met each other after the human's death on Freedom's Progress. They crossed paths again much later, when Normandy SR-2 travelled into Far Rim to planet Haestrom. There, Shepard's team had to battle against their old enemy; the geth. The quarian team was all but slaughtered, only one survivor (besides Tali) remained – Kal'Reegar, Migrant Fleet marine. All for the dubious purpose of determining why Haestrom's star, Dholen, was aging before it's time. And after that, the Admiralty Board accused Shepard's comrade of treason. This claim was met with such hostility from Shepard that even when they gained proof of Tali's innocence (but also proof of Tali's father being guilty of worse than mere treason), she all but called them out on the carpet, almost inciting a rebellion of the quarian crew against the Board. The quarian became utterly devoted to Shepard after that, and the human, in turn, practically adopted Tali as a younger sister.

And now Tali'Zorah became an Admiral herself, assisting Shepard in the Reaper War. It appears that everyone who spends time with Shepard achieves greatness. It is unfair that Shepard herself gained nothing. Should I survive, I must amend that.

Jacob Taylor, ex-Alliance marine and Corsair, a man with some code of honour that could not handle bureaucracy and inaction of Systems Alliance when it mattered (in his point of view). In order to right wrongs, he joined Cerberus, thinking that his work there really mattered. It did to a degree; after all, he helped Shepard to get off Lazarus Station when it was under attack by a traitor. He was one of the first to be on Spectre's crew aboard the Normandy SR-2. When he received a signal from Hugo Gernsback, his father's ship, the wish to see what became of his supposedly late father overtook him, and Shepard agreed to investigate, even if chances of elder Taylor surviving were extremely low.

Turned out that curiousity sometimes does not kill the cat, but reveals the ugly truth. It turned out that Jacob's father created a juvenile dream for himself, abusing his position as acting captain and forcing people to eat the flora of the planet they landed on. This flora caused decay of mental function, no matter what was done with it; and Roland Taylor used this fact to his own advantage. At Shepard's urging, Jacob left his father a pistol with half a clip – not enough for self-defence, but enough to commit suicide, as humans earlier did when they considered their honour stained.

And Jacob's father did exactly that. Harsh, but yet again effective. Taylor retained his loyalty to Shepard after that.

Thane Krios, an infamous drell assassin who was facing the twilight of his life. Seeking repentance, he tried to amend his sins by eliminating Nassana Dantius, a ruthless asari "businesswoman". In the process, he did his best to save some of the salarian workers building Dantius Towers when they faced certain death at the hands of her Eclipse guard. Shepard was hot on his tails, blazing her way across the building. In the end, she got into Nassana's office first, and got to witness her demise.

No doubt she felt satisfied, after that stunt where Nassana tricked her into killing pirates who were led by another member of Dantius family.

After a short conversation, Thane agreed to join Shepard's mission, "no charge", as he said. Apparently, preventing Collectors from abducting humans was also a noble enough course for him.

Yet in the process, he heard that his son Kolyat decided to follow his path. Believing that this was the wrong thing to do, he approached Shepard for help, and she assisted him. When Kolyat took his target – Joram Talid – hostage, Thane was able to talk his son down, albeit not without problems and one casualty (Shepard killed Talid herself, deciding that the life of a staunch anti-human politician mattered little to her). Still, father and son made first steps in reconciling, and Thane, now feeling assured that his son would not follow his slippery path, concentrated fully on the mission.

And when Cerberus attacked the Citadel, he gave his life to save not only Valern, but all of us. His heroism must not be forgotten.

Legion, the independent geth platform specifically created for the purpose of tracking Shepard, who defeated Sovereign. It was unknown at that time, but the geth had two factions: the "true" geth and the "heretics". The latter were the ones to blame for the attacks on Eden Prime and the Citadel, as they agreed to serve Sovereign, disregarding the belief shared by the true geth that organic life has a right to self-determination. When the platform got knocked out on the derelict Reaper, where Shepard searched for Reaper IFF system, the human made an extremely unorthodox decision: she took the geth platform onboard and activated it. No one else would have done it.

Which turned out to be a good decision, since the threat of geth heretics did not end with Sovereign's destruction. Furthermore, a weapon was created which could subvert the true geth to the beliefs of heretics, not unlike indoctrination. Shepard readily assisted Legion in negating the threat, destroying the space station and all heretic programs within.

From what I know, this very thing later played the ultimate role in promoting peace between the quarians and the geth. It's such a shame that Legion had to… well… sacrifice itself (or, actually, himself). The insight into synthetic mind that he had would have been invaluable.

Samara, the Justicar, Servant of the Code. A person who must punish anyone who commits a crime, and most of the time, the punishment delivered by a Justicar is capital. Samara was hunting for a particular prey for almost 400 years, when she came across Shepard. In all honesty, it would be foolish to expect that the 900-years old matriarch would follow Shepard, who was known to make harsh choices and take courses of action deemed "unjust" by the Justicars. However, Samara gave a Third Oath of Subsumation to avoid conflict between Shepard's orders and her Code, a feat nearly unheard of. Her trust was fully repaid: Shepard risked her soul while trying to help Samara kill her own Ardat-Yakshi daughter, Morinth. From what Tevos knew, Shepard managed to resist the technique of Domination often employed by… less reputable asari.

And she didn't let Samara kill her last daughter, Falere, right after the death of her third daughter, Rila. Falere was able to "circumvent" the Justicar Code. Shepard can be as noble at times as she can be brutal. Common people never gain a friend in a Justicar.

Finally, Miranda Lawson, who used to be a staunch Cerberus loyalist; not surprising, since she had been recruited at 16. A daughter of one of the wealthiest (and the least pleasant) human businessmen, Henry Lawson, who had an unhealthy obsession with leaving his trace in history. Tevos remembered Miranda's words about herself: "I was not the first one he created; I was the first one he kept." Yes, created, by removing the Y-chromosome and doubling the X-chromosome, thus depriving her of a mother, a concept practically unforgivable among modern-day asari. The alterations in Miranda's genetic code were beneficial, but ambiguously ethical and borderline illegal. And he tried to do the same to Miranda's twin sister, Oriana.

In all honesty, Tevos' heart went out to a 16-year old teenager, who stole a baby child so that to spare her the pain of growing up under the wing of the unloving father. If someone else besides Cerberus offered Miranda the option of joining them in exchange for her sister's safety, she probably wouldn't have become one of the most wanted persons by C-Sec. The Illusive Man very effectively molded the innocent teenager into a staunch pro-human (but not xenophobic, thank the Goddess for small mercies) supporter. Yet even Miranda failed to withstand Shepard's fire and charisma.

Guess rescuing a twin sister not once, but actually twice and helping to avoid Cerberus assassins helps a lot. Lawson's support was invaluable against Cerberus once this Goddess-accursed Reaper War took a turn for the worse.

Slowly but surely Tevos reassured herself that Shepard was still the same person that was bestowed the honour of becoming the first human to enter the prestigious ranks of Spectres, the same person that Tevos had previously fallen for. And yet another circumstance arose that would surely prevent the blossoming of what could be a scandalous yet pleasant love affair.

Omega-4 Relay. The mass relay which led to Goddess-knew-where and which was known as a death trap, since no ship ever returned from it. And her mission against the Collectors was dubbed a suicide mission, since apparently the Collectors had their base of operations right there. Seemed a bit ridiculous that The Illusive Man would spend over 4 billion credits (Tevos nearly lost her jaw when she found out that little tidbit – just how powerful Cerberus was?) on Shepard's resurrection and several more billions on the construction of Normandy SR-2 (at this tidbit, the asari Councilor did lose her jaw and uttered several swear words, to the shock of Sparatus and Valern and amusement of Anderson) and hiring of the crew, just to send them to their deaths. Yet the ol' Timmy bastard (as Tevos' object of amorous feelings liked to call The Illusive Man) "had a lot of faith in Shepard and her crew", and surprisingly, his gamble paid off (at this point, the whole Council except Anderson lost their jaws): the Collector base was destroyed, and Shepard managed not to lose a single member of her crew!

After that, Tevos' insides were on flame with desire again. She was sorely tempted to send the whole politics to the daemonesses of ancient asari tales and congratulate Shepard personally (no innuendoes or Sparatus' infamous air quotes here!). And yet, another part of her, the one responsible for political decisions, won again, so Tevos did congratulate Shepard, but not in person, and once again she dismissed the Reaper threat. It seemed as if fates liked to mess with Shepard by not giving her any valuable tangible intel.

It also seemed that karma was still a bitch to Tevos, because soon after the success of anti-Collector mission, Shepard killed her colleague, Tela Vasir. The deceased asari was a renowned Spectre, responsible for several successful missions that could seriously threaten galactic stability. Tevos was shocked, but intelligence reports said later that Vasir was double-dealing for the Shadow Broker, who actually tried to sell Shepard's body to the Collectors and became sworn enemy of Liara T'Soni in the process. Of course, Shepard would help her friend.

After that, Tevos could not feel that much regret over Vasir's death, especially since it came out that the corrupt Spectre sold a couple of Council secrets herself. After that, Shepard disappeared and did not re-emerge for some time.

And then, when she did re-emerge, she up and destroyed the mass relay in Bahak system. One shall ask, dumbfounded: "Wait, what?" We'll say this once again:

Shepard destroyed the mass relay in Bahak system.

Destroyed. A mass relay. With an asteroid. Really. A Goddess-damned mass relay.

Does this human have a limit to making what was believed to be impossible actually possible?!

The thing is, the explosion of the mass relay destroyed the whole Bahak system, making Viper Nebula no longer accessible and claiming the lives of more than 300,000 batarians.

304,942 batarians, to be exact.

When Tevos learned about that, she was intensely furious. To many asari, lives of sentients were not to be cast aside like broken toys, and yet Shepard did that, and (if the reports were correct) did not even warn the batarians on Aratoht! All in the name of stopping the Reapers.

Oh how she wanted to throttle that damnable human, that puthreckal with her own hands! For committing mass murder, for destroying the only feasible way of interstellar travel, for crashing my heart, even if she didn't know about that!

The fact that Tevos used the word "puthreckal" to describe Shepard in that moment, which belonged to not-widely-known Old Thessian dialect and could not even be properly translated into human languages, meaning roughly "a most despicable sort of a heartless life-taker" (that meant, murderer), spoke volumes of her fury.

And yet, she still wanted to know: what made Shepard commit this? Was there a reason? Or were Sparatus and Valern right and she had gone mad, and must be given to Batarian Hegemony, abandoned to a fate worse than death?

Tevos vividly remembered the day when she visited the Alliance prison where Shepard was kept before her transfer to Earth, once she had surrendered herself and Normandy to the Alliance…


She was striding purposely through the corridors of the Alliance prison, her Spectre bodyguard behind her, her jaws set, her facial muscles strained, her lips pursed, her eyes ablaze with a flame which could only be attributed to avatars of vengeance.

Alliance soldiers on guard duty were struggling not to get in her way, or pushed themselves back into the walls, as if this could give them a chance to disappear from her face.

Several steps behind her, Admiral Steven Hackett and newly-appointed Admiral and ex-Councilor David Anderson were nearly struggling to keep pace with the infuriated asari.

"Councilor Tevos," started Anderson, "you do know that…"

"That information got from mind meld is not considered admissible evidence in the court? Or that melding without consent is a faux pas among my people? To both; yes."

"Your anger is understandable, Councilor, but…" Hackett tried to capture the initiative, only to meet Tevos' furious gaze.

"And you! You certainly have a lot of nerve, Admiral Hackett!" the asari rounded on the elderly human. "She destroyed the whole star system, and you are trying to stop the judicial system from doing their job?"

"I am not!" Hackett replied heatedly. "But as far as I know Shepard, she never did heinous things unless she actually had a reason!"

"Seconded!" Anderson supported his colleague. "You know full well that Shepard is no longer with Cerberus, and her hatred of batarians is not enough for her to commit this! I've known her for far longer than the whole Council combined!"

"It would be Reapers, wouldn't it?" muttered the asari Spectre, not bothering to hide her derision. Wrong move; it immediately earned her Anderson's wrath.

"It would certainly be it! She's already done more for the whole fucking galaxy than anyone since that goddamn clusterfuck with Saren!"

"What exactly? Joined Cerberus? Killed my colleague, Tela Vasir? Blew up a Goddess-accursed relay?!" the Spectre answered, her vouce rising.

"Enough!" Tevos interrupted. "I understand your feelings, Anderson. But so far, there hasn't been any incontrovertible, undoubtable, tangible proof of her claims, so I must search for untangible proof. And no one shall change my mind," with these words, the whole procession arrived at Shepard's cell. The burly Alliance guard gulped visibly on seeing four VIP's (one of them with a gun that promised lots of pain) coming to him. Tevos immediately set her sights on him:

"I must speak with Shepard. Now."

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but I can't do that without…"

"You have my authorization, Lieutenant Vega," Hackett interrupted him.

"Mine as well," Anderson added and turned to Tevos, "but I insist on being present."

"As you wish," Councilor replied, while Vega opened the door.

When it opened, Tevos went inside, Spectre guard and Anderson hot on her heels, and immediately went for her intended victim who unwittingly managed to captivate her heart earlier and crash it now. As she approached, she measured the Spectre with her eyes.

Jane Shepard looked a lot older than she was. Her hair was sagged as if she forgot to take care of them, her posture screamed defeatism, and her eyes were dull. Certainly a far cry from the warrior in the vids or reports. As the asari approached, she raised her heads and uttered:

"Councilor? What…" before she had a chance to continue, Tevos grabbed her face and turned her face so that they would have a direct eye contact.

"Embrace Eternity, Commander," Tevos muttered, and her eyes became obsidian black.

Shepard was not well-versed in mental defenses, and as such, the asari Councilor had no problem with getting inside her head.

"What are you doing, Councilor?" Shepard spoke within her mind, not sure of anything.

"I must see… just why did you have to do it? To destroy the Bahak system? To snuff those lives out of existence?!"

"Believe you me, Councilor, I'm not proud of that myself," Shepard's voice resonated, and several moments later, Tevos saw everything.

The covert operation. The revelation of the monstrous Project. The arrival to base. The countdown timer. The Object Rho. The betrayal which stemmed from indoctrination. The desperate battle. The lack of time. The decision. The desperate run for the shuttle.

The conversation with Harbinger.

Abruptly, the meld ended, and Tevos swayed for the moment.

"Councilor, are you okay?" The Spectre guard asked, worried.

"Fine… as well as one can be…" the Councilor replied, and turned to Anderson.

"Satisfied?" she heard, and was surprised at the poison hidden in the human's words.

"Fully. I understand now. I'm not fine with it, but…" she trailed off, not knowing what to say. Fortunately, Anderson was perceptive, and he understood.

He nodded, and the whole procession exited the cell.

Tevos had the urge to turn back at Shepard and mouth, "All will be well," but resisted the temptation. She could not take the political mask off.

Not now.


After that, Tevos was not sure of her feelings towards Shepard. She understood what Shepard had to do, but could not agree with it so soon, even if rationality said that 304,942 lost lives were a better option than trillions of lost lives.

Later, she performed a mind meld with both Sparatus and Valern, showing them the truth taken from Shepard's mind. They were shocked, but knew that Tevos was too skilled to be taken in by illusions, and they agreed to try and prepare the galaxy for war in secret.

Too little, too late.

When the Reapers came, the galaxy was caught with the proverbial pants down. Another one of those "witty" human sayings.

In mere months, Batarian Hegemony was all but destroyed, the Alliance lost Earth and good number of colonies, turians became embroiled in a bitter fight over Palaven which was doomed to lose, and some time later, Salarian Union and Asari Republics also began feeling the heat. However, the latter two governments in their arrogance refused to support anti-Reaper front. Linron withheld important assets because Shepard provided krogans with a cure for genophage, and Asari Republics did not even send a representative for war summit.

In fact, once Tevos approached the Matriarchs with the notion of telling Shepard about the hidden artifact in Temple of Athame, they told her in no uncertain terms that if she muttered even a syllable, she would immediately be forcibly retired (that said, assassinated). The asari Councilor was furious; she was a commando in her youths and knew strengths and weaknesses of her species. It was obvious to anyone with some sort of military experience that asari would lose their pants off (in Matriarch Aethyta's words) in the fight against Reapers. But she could not reverse the situation, not until those stuck-up Matriarchs actually saw Reapers over Thessia and collectively crapped their pants (never thought I would adopt Aethyta's manners; oh well, I think this is justified now).

And so, Councilor Tevos T'Semni put her hopes on the person who had accomplished a lot of impossible feats, who defeated Saren and Sovereign, survived death, destroyed the Collectors, cured the genophage, formed turian-krogan alliance and turned two bitter enemies – quarians and geth – into allies: Commander Jane Shepard.

Once Tevos told Shepard everything she knew about the secret artifact on Thessia, making sure that no one could wreak vengeance on behalf of the Matriacrhs, she retreated into her private apartment and offered a quick, desperate and somewhat messy prayer:

Goddess Athame, compassionate, caring and merciful, I come begging before you. Goddess Athame, do not reject me, but please hear my plea. Goddess Athame, forgive my misdeeds and lead me to the right path.

Please, protect Thessia and all my sisters on the planet from the enemy seeking our annihilation. Bless the weapons raised not in malevolence, but in defense of what we all hold dear.

Save those who cannot fight this mighty foe and give them strength to endure the hardest challenge.

Tevos hesitated for a moment before continuing, and then whispered:

Guide the one who hurries to defend our people, the one I know as Commander Jane Shepard. Please help her achieve her goal, provide strength for her team, and protect them from those who wish to do her harm.

Goddess Athame, just and benevolent, please help the one I love, and forgive me for not having done enough to support her.

This was supposed to be a one-shot as "Shepard's Cunning Plan", but my brain went wild, and I decided to split this fic in two chapters. This one is supposed to be angsty. Since this is my first venture into the alley of "Angst" and "Tragedy" genre, I would like you to tell me your honest opinion.

If you want to flame my work, please tell me why exactly you do this. Otherwise, I will come to conclusion that your flaming is unreasonable, and there will be a fire extinguisher.

The second chapter will contain some dialogue between Shepard and Tevos in the aftermath of fall of Thessia, references to Citadel DLC and inevitable tragic (I hope to put it across like this) ending.

I am not sure as to when I will post the second and final chapter, since I'll leave the city for the weekend and must be prepared. That will also disrupt my ability to reply to reviews, most likely. But I will do my best to reply to everyone who writes a review.

And I would like to thank the following people who reacted to my previous story, "Shepard's Cunning Plan", as of July 8, 2014:

Scorpio-666, Theodur, anonymous Guest, ChocolateTruffles, FasterGhost, Zizania, anotherboarduser, General Herbison, Ode 30 and Thrans – for reviewing.

Azuredragon27, ChocolateTruffles, Dezwijger1982, Griffon2745, Rayne90, Rogue Wasteland Wanderer, Scorpio-666, ShepardisaBOSS, Thrans, achus93, elrond-76, greendeluge, hopelessromantic34, iamalex117, silentmarine and swainbob142 – for favouriting.

Agent Scifi Maniac, Dezwijger1982, Rogue Wasteland Wanderer, Rayne90 and achus93 – for following (even if my story was a one-shot).

Thank you, everyone!

Galactic Alien out (for now).