**Final Chapter***

Her arm sat lazily in the sling. It felt fine but she promised the good doctor that she would wear it at least for the rest of the day. She removed it, just for this moment, she couldn't let him see her hurt.

"Shepard, your making a habit of costing me more than time and money." He said angrily.

"And you made a habit of endangering people I care about. I guess we are both a little sore." She crossed her arms. "In case you were hoping for an apology, I'm not sorry."

"The technology from that base could have secured human dominance in the galaxy." He fumed, "From the Reapers and beyond."

"Human dominance, or just Cerberus?" She snapped, "Why is it so hard for you to just coexist?"

"I should have known you'd crack under the hard decisions, you've been too idealistic from the start."

She laughed, "I'm not looking for your approval. Harbinger is coming and he won't be alone. Humanity needs someone looking out for their best interests, someone who will act humane." She shook her head and leaned back on her hip, "So I'll just keep doing things my way. Whether you like it or not."

"Don't you dare turn your back on me, Shepard!" He walked forward, "I made you, I brought your back from the dead!"

"Joker," She grinned widely at the Illusive man, "Lose this channel." She turned and walked away, glaring over her shoulder at him.

She took the surprisingly still working elevator to the cargo bay, where most of the crew had gathered to aid in repairs. She flagged them all over and, with her arm still in a sling she stood on one of the crates and smiled down at them.

"Words can't describe how fucking proud of you I am." She shook her head, "You are the best crew anyone could ever hope for, if it had been anyone else, I'm sure I would have died on that base. So, thank you, all of you, for saving my life in so many ways."

She looked around at their faces, her eyes became sad as she stared out the hole in the hull.

"This ship has been ordered to surrender to the Alliance. I have cut all ties to Cerberus and the Illusive Man, but sadly we can't fly rouge." They looked at each other confused. "I plan to drop most of you off at the Citadel, I don't want your loyalty to me to mark your record or get you arrested."

"What the hell Shepard?" Jack protested, she held up a hand to silence her.

"I will likely be detained by the alliance for questioning, if not court marshaled. Unfortunately that means I won't be able to communicate with most of you since you will be seen as having Cerberus ties as well. You will all be receiving a severance package, courtesy of the Illusive man." She grinned, "If any of you would like to be transported somewhere aside from the Citadel, please send the coordinates to Joker. We must do this quickly, Hackett is already sending ships after us."

She ignored their protests as she hopped down from her pedestal, she had to. She pushed past them to the elevator, trying hard to keep the tears from her eyes as she pushed the button to head to her room. She radioed Joker.

"Set course for Palaven first." She said softly and went to transfer all the funding from the Illusive man to separate accounts, and the entirety of her personal funds to one Mr. Vakarian to help fund treatments for his wife. It was the least she could do for Garrus.

He stood with the crew in shock. He wanted to go after her, but with the turmoil her speech had caused he needed to douse the flames a bit before then.

"Everyone just calm down, I'm sure there is an explanation for this." He held up his hands to everyone, "Don't you think we should at least trust her with this?"

"Not when it's this dumbass decision." Jack growled.

"Think about it, Jack, what would happen if alliance command got their hands on you?" He let that sink in. She was a wanted criminal before she was locked down at purgatory. The bounty on her head was nearly as high as Archangels, but she was wanted by the government. She withdrew. "Grunt, what would happen if the Alliance scientists found out that a pure Krogan could be bred in a tank?"

Grunt scratched his head. Thane moved to stand beside Garrus.

"Garrus is right. The least we can do is make this easier on her. We all have some form of bounty on our heads, something the Alliance wants from us. Her sacrifice will save all of us."

The crew shared a look, subdued. Thane nodded to him and Garrus thanked him, heading directly up to her cabin.

She was lying on her back, staring up at the stars. She looked over to see him and smiled sadly.



He went over and laid beside her on the bed, she curled against his side and continued to look up at the stars.

"Please don't try and talk me out of this." She said softly.

"Never crossed my mind." He kissed the top of her head, "But if the Alliance won't let me call you, they are going to have one angry Turian on their doorstep."

She laughed softly and kissed his chest. They laid like this in silence for a few moments.

"Shepard, what did you mean when you said you were being punished for being selfish?" He felt her tense.

"…If I hadn't gone to see Nathan, I could have stopped the Collectors from taking everyone." Her voice was meek. "I selfishly tried to hold on to that piece of my past, and my crew suffered for it."

"Don't be stupid, that's a damn lie and you know it." He shook his head, "If you had been here they would have taken you too. Which would have left me to rally the troops and I don't think they would have liked my speech." He ran his fingers though her hair.

He wanted to tell her. Three simple words with one of the most complicated meanings. But he couldn't just blurt it out, she meant more than that. He was about to tell her anyway when Joker piped up.

"Ten minutes to Palaven, Commander. Want me to call Garrus?"

"No, thanks. I got it." She replied softly. She sat up and looked away from him.

"What?" He stared at the back of her head, she was dropping him off first? Palaven was close to her home system, he figured he'd be the last, that he would be with her for at least a few more days.

"You need to go home, Garrus. I've kept you away too long." Her voice was thick.

"Like hell, Shepard. Go to the Citadel first." His tone was sharp. I want to be with you as much as I can.

"No, Garrus." She turned to him and let out a sharp sigh. "I didn't get to say goodbye to my mom, I'm not going to let you have that same regret."

He froze. Tears brimmed in her eyes and he didn't know what to say. He grabbed her up and pulled her back down on the bed, cradling her close.

"How did you know?"

"Liara told me." She sniffed, "Trust me Garrus, I don't want to lose you first, but this is for the best."

"You aren't losing me." He growled, "You will never lose me."

The cuffs were cold against her wrists. When the Normandy docked back on Earth, only a skeleton crew of humans remained. Everyone else was safe, either on their home world or on the Citadel. What little crew remained was arrested upon arrival and taken to interrogation. Anderson had made the trip down, she'd called him to let him know what she was doing.

Now that she'd taken what she'd wanted from Cerberus, she wanted to come back to the Alliance, she'd always wanted back in the Alliance. Surrendering a Cerberus vessel seemed like a good place to start; besides, the Normandy looked so much better flying Alliance colors.

Her hearing could have gone better. Thanks to Anderson's testimony, she wasn't court-marshaled, but she was to be confined until further notice. They thanked her for her return and, off the record, thanked her for saving their lives from the Collectors. She smiled at them and gave her best handcuffed salute before being led off to the small apartment on premises where she was to remain until they had time to fully evaluate her. They wanted to be sure that Cerberus had no control over her, and that she had no ulterior motives. They refused to tell her how long she would be imprisoned.

The door slid shut behind her and Anderson showed her around the room. She was fine with everything until he dropped a bomb on her.

"You will have no outside contact for the first six months, then after that it will only be approved transmissions."

"What?" She thought of Garrus, if anything happened with his mother she wanted to be there for him, and here Anderson was telling her she would have no contact with anyone aside from top alliance brass and her door guard, James Vega.

"I'm sorry Shepard, but this comes from the top."

"Its bullshit!" She snapped, he looked at her oddly. She'd never cursed at him before. "I'm sorry, Anderson but you know it is."

"Take some time to come to terms, there is nothing I can do. Maybe we can contact some people for you? Let them know you will be out of contact?" She quickly jotted down a list of names and Anderson left to go deliver it.

No sooner had he left did the weight of everything sink in. She slammed her fist into the wall hard. "Damnit." She pressed her forehead against it and let out a sharp breath.

There was a knock at her door. She didn't want to talk to anyone. She'd been imprisoned for two months with no contact. She hated being alone, but the person she wanted to see was in a different star system. She toyed with the necklace she'd made out of his old visor. The knock came again, this time the person just entered.

James looked her over; she was curled up on her couch in her N7 hoodie, her knees tucked into her chest staring at the blank TV screen.

"C'mon, Commander, this is just pathetic." He plopped down on the couch beside her, setting a couple cases of beer on the table in front of them. One was her favorite cider. She turned her head to glare at him.

"I know I know, this sucks. But instead of wallowing, yes you're wallowing, why not make the best of it?"

"How exactly am I supposed to do that?"

He popped open her beer and passed it to her, "Honestly? I have no idea, but I think this is a good place to start."

A small smile crept to her lips. "You know what, James? That is an excellent idea."