Those were the lyrics, if he remembered them correctly. But that was his cell. Grey, drab walls. A relatively comfortable bed, considering his current situation. He'd certainly slept on worse things in his life. A functioning toilet was a bonus. And, despite the charges he possibly faced, he was treated well by his guards. He received three meals a day. He was allowed to read books. He'd been reading a lot as he had nothing else to do whenever he wasn't being interviewed. He'd lost track of time, otherwise. He hadn't been in the cell longer than a fortnight if he tried counting how often he'd been to sleep or when there was lights out. So he lay back on his bed, hands clasped behind his head as he stared at nothing, trying to keep his mind blank. Thinking was only going to send him stir crazy. The one disheartening thing was the lack of news about his wife. He hoped he may be allowed to at least know where she was soon.
His mind drifted and he figured he was almost asleep when he heard the door open. He got to his feet with a groan before he recognised his visitor, coming to attention and saluting automatically.
"Council…," though he trailed off when he recognised the uniform, "Admiral?"
His friend didn't return the salute. He understood why. But he still returned a smile. "It's Admiral now, Shepard. I'll explain it all later. Are you well?"
He shrugged. "Well as can be expected, I guess. I can't complain considering the circumstances."
"Good. You want to get the hell out of here?"
He raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean, sir?"
"Do you want to go home, Shepard?"
He didn't know what to say for a few seconds. "You serious, sir?"
"Absolutely. Grab your jacket. You're heading back to Earth today."
He didn't need to ask any more questions. He knew his friend was serious as he grabbed his coat from the bed and put it on. Anderson led the way as they made their way out of the cell block, past the interview rooms and eventually out into the offices of Alliance HQ. Unlike his first time through, he didn't feel all eyes fall upon him. He still received one or two stares, but most ignored his presence entirely.
"We have one or two stops to make along the way, Shepard. I'll also need to explain some things too."
"Start at the top, sir."
"Admiral Hackett presented all your evidence to the Alliance. Put simply, they believe it. They know and believe you are innocent. You will face no charges over your alliance with Cerberus, and it's unlikely you will after what happened to the Bahak system. Don't entirely get your hopes up, but I'm confident they'll see sense."
He couldn't help coming to a stop. "You're serious?"
Anderson stopped and nodded. "Absolutely. Took a bit of negotiation but, as I said, Admiral Hackett and I have believed in the Reaper threat since day one. You've always done what needed to be done, Shepard. I understand why they've kept you locked up for the past month. Like Reisman told you, it was simply about appearances." Anderson then gestured around him. "These men and women know the truth although it's still meant to be hush-hush. Still an official secret. But those who need to know are aware, they know you are innocent and certainly have nothing more to prove."
"What about the Council?"
"Effectively the same. Publicly, they had to disown you. They had no choice after everything that happened. Privately, they know you did the right thing. Give it time and we'll try and get you back to the Citadel. They'll want to hear your version of events."
"And what about you, sir? You're no longer a Councillor?"
"Resigned. The Reapers are coming for a fight. I'm prepared to give them one, just like you."
"Good to hear."
They continued until they were standing in the reception area where they came to a halt again. There were half a dozen people sitting on the available couches. Two appeared to be civilians, perhaps waiting to join. Two more were officers, obviously waiting for someone perhaps of an even high rank. There were two other men.
The first he recognised immediately, leaping to his feet and offering a salute. "Jenkins, you can't salute Shepard anymore," Anderson stated, though even Shepard didn't miss the tone. Anderson didn't want to say those words at all.
"Sorry, sir," Jenkins replied abashed, still standing at attention though arms now at his side.
"What's going on?" Shepard asked.
"Jenkins here is going to be your pilot."
He was now utterly confused. "Huh?"
"I'll explain in a minute," Anderson stated as he gestured to the second man, who was also standing at attention, "Shepard, this is Lieutenant James Vega. He is to be your personal guard."
"You're being sent back to Earth, Shepard, primarily so it looks like you're going to face trial. Once you're back on Earth, it has been agreed that you may choose to reside wherever you wish, though you may be called into court at any moment to give evidence. As I said, I'm hopeful, as is the Admiral but..." He paused. "Oh, and you cannot leave Earth. You will be monitored in various ways: you will wear an ankle bracelet, your omni-tool will be tracked and Lieutenant Vega will be tasked with preventing you leaving Earth. If you defy these orders, Shepard, he has explicit orders to take you down. Before you joke, Shepard, I'm being deadly serious. It's taken some negotiation to get this done as there are still those who are working against you. Do you understand?"
"I do, sir."
"Very good." Anderson gestured to the two other men. "Prepare the shuttle and wait for our arrival. We have one more stop to make."
Jenkins and the Lieutenant saluted Anderson, Shepard figuring Jenkins was at heart saluting him too, though he kept his hand down, not wanting to exacerbate the situation. The two men turned tail and departed, appearing to introduce themselves as they shared a handshake before disappearing from view.
Anderson made a 'follow me' gesture as they exited Alliance HQ. "One more stop, Shepard."
"Just wait and see."
The pair walked in silence towards a nearby elevator, boarding together as Anderson pressed a button for a higher floor. Far quicker than elevators on the Citadel or even in his ship, or to put it correctly, his old ship, there was a ding before the doors opened. Anderson gestured for Shepard to get off alone. "Your shuttle will be waiting at bay B-24. You have a two hours, Shepard."
"Two hours for what?"
"Turn left and head down the hall. Look for room number 361."
He just scratched the back of his head. "Okay. See you shortly, sir."
The doors closed and he was left alone in the hall. He turned to his left and started counting the numbers to his left and right, coming to the end where signs pointed for him to turn right, continuing to count until he arrived at number 361 on his left. He pressed the doorbell with his right hand before he took a step back.
The door soon opened. He felt a smile stretch across his face immediately. He heard the gasp as she stood still in the doorway. He could read her body language easily as he stepped forward until they were inches apart before he wrapped her in a hug. He could feel the slight shudder of her body as she wrapped her arms around him in return, tightening her hold with every second. He lost track of how long they held each other in silence, simply enjoying the feeling of holding each other once again.
She eventually let him go and started keying her omni-tool. He raised an eyebrow as the door behind him closed while a glass panel dropped from the roof in front of them, enclosing them in a small space. Then there was that unmistakable sound both had heard time and again.
Thirty seconds later, the glass panel ascended and she grabbed his hand, dragging him through the small living room and into the bedroom. She turned to face him as his hand moved automatically to the side of her mask, hearing the hiss as he removed it, throwing it to his side before he helped remove her hood.
Then he just looked at her. A smile that would light up the darkest room. Eyes that glowed like diamonds, though her cheeks were slightly wet. She sniffed once. He just stared, soaking in every single feature, his eyes taking it all in. For once, he didn't know what so say.
"Hello, John," she said softly.
He found the words and smiled. "Hello, gorgeous."
He pulled her close once again. She wrapped her arms around his neck as she looked up at him. If he didn't know any better, her smile broadened even more.
Husband and wife kissed.
Now he was home.
A/N – Well, that was a happier epilogue than 'Search for Saren', wasn't it? So, that's obviously this story done and dusted. But Shepard, Tali and the rest will return shortly in 'The Promises Saga III: Worth Dying For.' I'll start uploading that relatively quickly as two-thirds / three-quarters of the story has already been written.
And if anyone has been wondering about the chapter titles, they're all named after songs. Some did apply in some way to the chapter. Others simply fit a theme. I was going to list a breakdown but that would take far too long. (If you are interested, I'll let you know by PM)
Anyway, hope you enjoyed this story. Most of the reviews the entire way through have been positive, at least. Thanks to those who have read and reviewed.